BY: Scott McGlynn
This Friday, the annual running of the The Oaks Stakes will take place at Epsom racecourse. The Oaks is one of the five British ‘Classic’ horse races, along with the 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, The Derby and the St Leger. The Oaks is a Group 1 race for three year old fillies run over 1 mile and 4 furlongs (2414m),with all horses carrying 9 stone as they chase the £450,000 offered in prize money.
Epsom is a unique racecourse, shaped like a horseshoe with the 1 mile 4 furlong start at one end and the winning post at the other end. In between though, the course undulates and incorporates Tattenham Corner where the track drops 60 feet and cambers towards the running rail. The final three and a half furlongs is over a 90 feet descent before an uphill finish for the drive to the winning post. With its unique layout, Epsom has been the scene of many triumphs but also many disappointments where well fancied horses have failed to adjust to the track on the day.
At present there are 11 declared runners for The Oaks, with the ante-post favourite being Legatissimo, trained in Ireland by David Wachman. Legatissimo impressively won the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket at the beginning of May and will again be ridden by three times Champion jockey Ryan Moore. Moore has an impressive record at Epsom, having won The Oaks and The Derby in 2010 and winning The Derby again in 2013. Legatissimo is aiming to become the first horse to win the 1000 Guineas and The Oaks since 2002 and to give trainer Wachman his first Oaks winner.
Home based hope may well rest with Crystal Zvezda, trained by veteran trainer Sir Michael Stoute and due to be ridden by last year’s Champion Jockey Richard Hughes. An impressive winner of a Listed Trials race in mid May, again under Ryan Moore, Stoute will be hoping that his filly can give him his 16th British Classic.
In recent years another Irish trainer, Aidan O’Brien has enjoyed much success in the British Classics and he goes into The Oaks tripled handed with Diamondsandrubies, Qualify and Together Forever. Diamondsandrubies is perhaps O’Brien’s best hope of a fifth Oaks winner and she goes into the race in good formafter winning the Cheshire Oaks at Chester last month. Ridden by Ryan Moore on that day, O’Brien is still to confirm who will take the ride at Epsom.
The common theme between the horses at the top of the betting market is that jockey Ryan Moore has been on board them all in their previous races this year. With this garner knowledge, it is possibly significant that he has chosen to take the ride on Legatissimo over the other leading entries. With the race due of at 16.00 on Friday, come 16.05 we will find out if Moore did indeed make the correct choice.
Legatissimo is currently the 4 (3/1) favourite to win her second Classic of the year. Crystal Zvezda is available at 4.5 (7/2) with Diamondsandrubies at 10 (9/1) to give trainer Aidan O’Brien yet another Oaks winner.