The Epsom Oaks has a long history of producing top class fillies and that reputation has been enhanced for horse racing fans in recent years thanks to the likes of Snow Fairy, Taghrooda and last year Enable with all going on to triumph against their male rivals at the highest level later in the season.
The news last week that ante-post favourite and Pretty Polly Stakes winner Lah Ti Dar would miss Friday’s second fillies classic of the season and as such deny trainer John Gosden the chance of saddling back-to-back winners in the race has thrown this years renewal wide open for punters.
The Godolphin operation of Sheikh Mohammed has been relatively quiet on the classic front in recent seasons but in Wild Illusion the Dubai-based outfit can boast the ante-post favourite for this year’s renewal.
Wild Illusion (4/1 with Betbright) was the winner of two of her three starts last year including in Group 1 company on soft ground in France on her final outing while she finished a good fourth in the first classic of the season the 1000 Guineas held at Newmarket just under a month ago on her only start this time around.
Trained by Charlie Appleby in Newmarket the daughter of Dubawi is out of a mare who was twice victorious over 2m in 2012 and she shapes as if this step up to 1m4f will suit. Trainer Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore Stud connections come into this contest with their usually strong hand and with the handler having taken this event five times since the turn of the millennium whichever of his eight current entries he chooses to run should be respected by those planning a flutter.
The market suggests that chief among his contenders is the Galileo filly Magical (5/1 with SunBets) a dual winner as a two-year-old last year and who also finished a good fourth behind Wild Illusion at Chantilly last October.
The full-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Rhododendron among others has far more experience than her chief market rival with seven starts to her name and she has her stamina to prove on her first attempt at this distance having finished fourth on heavy ground when sporting blinkers for the first time at Longchamp in a 1m Group 3 contest when making her seasonal debut in April.
The Cheshire Oaks held three weeks ago and a traditional trial for this contest saw two of the Aidan O’Brien inmates clash with victory going the way of Magic Wand (8/1 with Bet365) who left her two previous efforts well behind when encountering good ground for the first time to draw clear of stablemate Forever Together (15/2 with Betfair). Both looked likely to appreciate the extra half furlong they’ll encounter here and would be respected if lining up on Friday.
William Haggas knows what it takes to win this race having saddled 2011 winner Dancing Rain and he could be represented this time around by either Give And Take (11/1 Bet365) or Sea Of Class (7/1 with SunBets).
The former took York’s big trial for this race the Musidora Stakes over an extended 1m2f earlier this month and while that effort came on quicker ground than she’s likely to encounter on Friday she has won on good-to-soft ground in the past and she shapes as if stamina won’t be an issue stepping up in trip while the trainer was quoted last week as saying that Sea Of Class is likely to sidestep this race in favour of an outing in the French equivalent in mid-June.
Perfect Clarity (10/1 with Bet365) is another to have won a recognised trial race with her victory coming over an extended 1m3f in the Lingfield Oaks Trial on good-to-firm ground just over a fortnight ago. Trained by Clive Cox the daughter of Nathaniel is the joint most inexperienced runner in the field with the Lingfield success just her second start having won a Nottingham novice contest last August on her sole outing at two.
Bye Bye Baby (9/1 with Ladbrokes) has gained plenty of experience and is yet another possible runner for Aidan O’Brien having won the Blue Wind Stakes over 1m2f at The Curragh on her most recent start. The filly made all under Seamie Heffernan on that occasion and looks likely to employ similar front-running tactics if lining up on Friday.