AFTER her 1,000 Guineas victory it was inconceivable that Minding would start odds-against in the Investec Oaks. Success in the Epsom Classic seemed as inevitable as night follows day after her Newmarket romp. But the chance of Aidan O’Brien’s star filly going off at 11/10 or bigger looks a distinct possibility following her shock defeat in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. The filly who was at one point being encouraged in some quarters to take on the colts in the Derby suddenly looks vulnerable and no longer looks a shoo-in at Epsom on Friday. So can she do the Classic double?
I don’t like denigrating big races for the sake of it but a field of nine for a British Classic, with one trainer (Aidan O’Brien) making up a third of the field is a poor show. Just five UK-trained fillies will line up for a race that is worth almost £500,000. Surely, with so many doubts surrounding the favourite, more owners and trainers should have thrown their hats into the Oaks ring?
Back to Minding and, before the race, Aidan O’Brien had talked about the Irish Guineas being a good workout for her, the inference being that she should win comfortably. But on rain-softened ground she gave second best to Jet Setting, who revelled in the conditions. Minding also appeared to have a much harder race than her trainer would have wanted. One (fairly valid) excuse offered was that she banged her head in the stalls and suffered a sinus injury.
On the flip side, Minding and Jet Setting pulled 10 lengths clear of the useful Now Or Never in third and Jet Setting had previously shown top form on soft ground. So it was no disgrace for Minding to get to within a head on ground that she would not have appreciated. So any odds-against prices could be made to look very generous come Oaks day.
But the rain has come at Epsom and it looks inevitable that the ground will ride on the slow side. Andrew Cooper, clerk of the course, says it is currently good to soft, soft in places, with more showers to come later today (Wednesday). The forecast is then fairly dry but good to soft ground looks the most likely scenario. This reduces confidence in Minding’s ability to get the trip even further. Minding is currently best priced 10/11 and it will be interesting to see if she drifts in the Investec Oaks market.
There has been support for Turret Rocks but she looks one of the more exposed fillies in the race and was six lengths behind Minding at Newmarket. However Jim Bolger remains quietly confident.
Skiffle has been supplemented for the race after her win in the Height of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood. She lacks experience but Godolphin would not have forked out the £30,000 if they didn’t think she had a chance. She has attracted significant support in the past week and is currently about 6/1.
Architecture was second in the Lingfield Oaks Trial to another Oaks candidate Seventh Heaven and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori following the unfortunate scratching of So Mi Dar. It is difficult to weigh up the form but both these fillies promised there was much more to come.
And it is the progressive profile of SEVENTH HEAVEN that makes me feel she could be the value in the race. The daughter of Galileo has improved with each run and although she showed very little in her two juvenile races, she won her maiden at Dundalk with ease, staying on strongly. The step up from 1m to 1m 3f in the Lingfield Oaks Trial really suited her and she appeared to outstay Architecture. The extra furlong at Epsom will hold no fears and if Minding’s stamina gives out then Seventh Heaven could be the one to benefit most as there is no doubt that she will stay, despite her dam being a sprinter! The only doubt is her ability to handle the contours of Epsom as connections felt she didn’t handle Lingfield too well. However at the 16/1 still available at the time of writing she looks the best value.
Somehow is the other Aidan O’Brien runner and did well to win the Cheshire Oaks with Diamonds Pour Moi back in third. But the form of that race has not worked out at all and both are discounted. Australian Queen and Harlequeen make up the field and the latter has attracted some each-way support.
Selection: SEVENTH HEAVEN 16/1 each-way.