The Bet365 Fillies Mile takes centre stage at Newmarket on Friday as eight juvenile females test their Classic credentials in their last Group 1 of the British horse racing season.
Fillies Mile betting favourite Antonia de Vega, and leading challengers Hermoas, Zagitova and Pretty Pollyanna, are all already to the fore in the Oaks and 1,000 Guineas markets, but whoever wins on Friday will be considered the one to beat in 2019.
Traditionally the Fillies Mile is the biggest two-year-old race for fillies in the British horse racing calendar. First run in 1973, it is the last Group 1 of the year for juvenile females, and in recent years it has been dominated by Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien.
He has saddled three of the last four winners - Together Forever (2014), Minding (2015) and Rhododendron (2016) - with Minding going to win the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks at Epsom.
As is often the case with the Aidan O’Brien team they boast more than one runner in the autumnal fillies highlight. Both Hermosa and Zagitova have plenty of experience, including in Group 1 company.
Hermosa has won twice from her five starts, including when winning a soft ground maiden over 7f at the Galway Festival at the end of July. A couple of defeats followed, including when third in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes over the same trip at the Curragh, and while she was the winner of a Group 3 even at Naas (7f, good) subsequently, she may need to find more if she’s to register her first Group 1 victory in the Fillies Mile.
Despite starting a fraction of the price of Hermosa in the Moyglare Stud Stakes Zagitova finished one place behind her rival. Hampered in the final furlong that day, there’s a chance she might reverse that form, racing over 1m. But based on the way the pair finished at the Curragh, the preference would have to be for Hermosa who is worth a bet at 4/1 with sponsors Bet365.
Antonia De Vega impressed in seeing off today’s rival Zagitova in a competitive 7f maiden event on the July Course at this venue back in July. The daughter of Lope De Vega followed that up with a good performance in seeing off seven rivals in Goodwood’s Ladbrokes Prestige Stakes over 7f at the end of August.
The form of that Goodwood contest could be working out better, but she looks a worthy favourite at present given she is unbeaten in two starts and represents a stable who have been in good form (6/25) in recent weeks. She's no bigger than 100/30 to win with Coral.
Trainer John Gosden is having his usual good season, and being one of the top trainers in the country it is surprising that you have to go back to 2008 when Rainbow View was victorious to find his most recent winner of the Fillies Mile.
He is represented by Shambolic this time around and the half-sister to a couple of world class performers in Viva Pataca (a multiple Group 1 winner in Hong Kong) and Laughing (a Grade 1 winner in the USA back in 2013) is unbeaten in two starts so far.
The first of those came over 7f on the July Course here, when the daughter of Shamardal proved a neck too good for her six rivals, then she followed up just over a month ago in a 1m novice event at Ascot (good-to-firm).
More is needed to win this Group 1, but her stable is likely to have had a number of possible entries, so it’s notable that she is their chosen runner and at 8/1 she rates a stand-out each-way bet with Coral.
Pretty Pollyanna is already a winner at this level, having taken the Group 1 Prix Morny on good going over 6f at Deauville back in August. The impressive winner of a Group 2 contest prior to that, she could finish only fourth in the Cheveley Park Stakes over the same 6f distance here on good-to-firm going two weeks ago.
While the daughter of Oasis Dream was staying on in fourth on that occasion, she is far from certain to appreciate this step up to 1m, with two of her siblings winning over 7f and the only one to try 1m weakening in the final furlong.
There is hope stamina-wise from her dam, given that she is an unraced half-sister to 1m4f winner Unex El Greco, but in all likelihood Pretty Pollyanna is going to find this distance beyond her at this stage in her career. Steer clear.
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