Oaks day starts with the Woodcote Stakes – a Listed contest for two year olds over a six-furlong trip. Buratino won this race last year and when looking at recent stats the last five winners have had at least two previous starts before claiming success in this race.
Richard Hannon has a good record in this race having won it in 2013 and 2014. The Wiltshire handler saddles Legendary Lunch here and this son of Dragon Pulse looked to be a free going type when upset last time at Windsor. He may have bumped into a useful filly in Sea Of Snow, who re-opposes here and gets weight all-round, but has to prove he can settle in a race.
Hyperfocus is bred for the job. Hugo Palmer’s juvenile won a weak race at Leicester on this sort of ground and despite it being a nothing race on how the form has worked out he did shape impressively. The extra furlong is something that could play in his favour and he hasn’t run since that win 41-days ago to allow him to strengthen up. On paper he looks a big player.
As I said in my opening prelude about the trend of having two or more starts for winning this race. Trends are there to be broken and Tibr can do that. He won a nicely at Lingfield on debut and in a good style. He looked fairly straight that day and seemed to be an easy ride with a nice attitude after hitting the front two out where he kept on galloping. The extra trip shouldn’t be an issue, as in time he could be a miler.
The first of the handicaps on the day is over ten-furlongs where Dark Red is the one to beat.
Ed Dunlop’s charge is on a four-timer and despite winning at Chester last time, going up 5lb, I don’t feel the handicapper has got a grip on him yet. He sat prominently and had a good tow into the race from Darshini and Felix De Vega – who both appear here but there are question marks about that pairing. Silvestre De Sousa produced him at the right time to win by a neck but he looked likely to be able to assert himself if needed to.
The market looks to have got this right with What About Carlo next in. This five year old was eighth behind the Ed Dunlop horse when last seen. It doesn’t look great in the formbook but when you re-watch the race he completely blows the start forfeiting ground and losing his chance. He sat at the back until the home turn then motored home. If breaking on terms, and getting a position, he would have gone close. He has plenty of experience on the Downs having won twice and placed from his five starts.
One at a bigger price that could be interesting is Sylvester Kirk’s Gold Prince. This four year old flopped over this trip at the end of last season when beaten 62l. However on his return on the Rowley Mile he was second to Interconnection, for which he went up 4lb. That day he went from the front and dictated proceedings, something he may get hassled for here, but he did look like he’d come on slightly for that run, so isn’t underestimated here under useful claimer Edward Greatrex.
What About Carlo (E/W)
The first of the Group races start with the Group 3 Diomed Stakes where last year’s winner Arod will defend his crown.
For me he produces his best when getting an easy time out in the lead. That may not be the case today with Sea Of Flames in the picture. Another worry is the ground may be too slow for him, as his two big wins last season came on rattling fast ground.
Tullius is back in trip and after finishing fifth in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown last time. Andrew Balding is a trainer in form of late and he’s reached for the visor for the eight year old to wear for the first time. He has to be respected after his third at the Craven meeting but he is drawn in the coffin box that is stall one.
Decorated Knight won a Listed race at Goodwood however there has to be a doubt over his running style here. Drawn in stall 11 and will be restrained from the stalls to try and get cover. If he doesn’t he may go off too freely and exert himself to early. Therefore my vote goes to Custom Cut, despite carrying a Group 2 penalty. David O’Meara’s runners are starting to hit form again and he’s had four winners since the turn of the month. This seven year old has had three starts this year and has disappointed it has to be said but on the pick of his form – a Group 2 win at Leopardstown and a length second to Time Test, gives him a big chance here if returning anywhere close to his best.
Custom Cut (E/W)
This is a wide-open Handicap over a mile where plenty could be given chances in some form or another.
Alcatraz ran well on his seasonal return over a further trip than this when third to Weetles at Windsor. The winner has since come out and placed in the Listed Nottinghamshire Oaks giving that form an extra boost. The tongue-tie has been applied for the first time but for me he wanted upping in trip rather than returning to the mile. Trainer George Baker has only had one winner from his last 19 runners and the yard has been a bit quiet.
One of the fillies’ in the race takes my eye. Miss Van Gogh has already had three runs this season and won well at Nottingham two starts ago and the form doesn’t look too bad. She gets the ground in her favour here, as she likes to get her two in, plus Paul Hanagan gets the leg up and he is three from three when in the plate.
Examiner must come into the equation on the back of his Newmarket run where he was beaten by one given a peach of a ride. He is now on a career high mark but that run suggested he could be back in a bit of form. He does tend to give his running but all three career wins have been on synthetic surfaces. Dutch Uncle has been about middle distances but comes back in trip today. Silvestre De Sousa is likely to make use of him from the front considering his stamina but could find this a bit too sharp.
Miss Van Gogh (E/W)
16:30 Epsom (The Oaks)
The feature race of the day and the third classic of the season.
Minding goes in search of becoming the first filly since Kazzia in 2002 to win the 1000 Guineas & Oaks double. Aidan O’Brien’s runner was supreme when winning at Newmarket but she disappointed in the Irish Guineas and was found to have picked up a sinus injury after the race when second to Jet Setting and that is where the worry lies. She steps up in trip but has the perfect pedigree to do so.
Architecture is the one I gave a positive mention to in the Epsom Guide published earlier this week. She handled the turf track at Lingfield, which has a similar configuration as this, so no worries about that. Hugo Palmer in this week’s Weekender said that she prefers quick ground, which is a slight concern however her maiden win at Nottingham came on good to soft. Beaten by a horse with fitness on her return, should be fitter and stronger. I believe she will run a big race.
Godolphin has Skiffle, who is more of an unknown quality, despite impressing many when winning the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes on just her second start. Having won that she was supplemented for this and without a doubt is definitely on to probably keep on side considering she looked to want further in that Goodwood win. She is by Dubawi, out of a King’s Best dam, so has a blend of stamina and speed.
CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO LISTEN TO OUR EPSOM OAKS PODCAST