Oaks at Epsom: Horse-by-horse guide with Forest Fairy backed

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Oaks at Epsom: Horse-by-horse guide with Forest Fairy backed

The Group One Betfred Oaks at Epsom on Friday looks as intriguing a contest as ever and Kate Tracey takes a look at each of the 12 runners….

Ballydoyle are well represented as always but, with the Oaks Trials throwing up unexpected results, there are plenty of questions that will be answered…..

Caught U Looking (drawn 1)

Jockey: Colin Keane | Trainer: Noel Meade

Stall one has been allotted to number one on the racecard, Caught U Looking for Noel Meade and Colin Keane. A winner of two of her five career starts, those successes coming in maiden and then Group Three company last year. This daughter of Harzand signed off her juvenile campaign with a lesser effort on her only trip across the Irish Sea when beaten over eight lengths in the Group One Fillies’ Mile behind Ylang Ylang at Newmarket.

Caught U Looking is drawn in stall one

Image: Caught U Looking is drawn in stall one

Her sole start this season was much improved for all it may not read as such on the face of it. She finished fourth of seven in the Group Three Salsabil Stakes at Navan when upped in trip but was slightly outpaced on the climb to the finish so the further distance will likely suit and softer ground will certainly be in her favour.

Dance Sequence (2)

William Buick | Charlie Appleby

Charlie Appleby will be solely represented by Dance Sequence in this year’s Oaks with William Buick taking the ride. Unbeaten in her two starts last season, the runs spread three months apart and on differing ground. Her return was respectable but lacked the necessary step forwards needed to win the Group Three Nell Gwyn Stakes.

She still looked green throughout the contest so there was evidently enough to work on. However, that progression didn’t come when she finished down the field in the 1000 Guineas last time out. The main concern for her is that undulating tracks may continue to catch her out which certainly isn’t a positive going to Epsom.

Ezeliya (5)

Chris Hayes | Dermot Weld

Many of the fillies in the 2024 Oaks will want the ground to be soft and it remains to be seen what type of ground will best suit Ezeliya. Trained by Dermot Weld, this filly appeared to appreciate the drying conditions on her reappearance last time. However, that was still officially yielding ground and her previous win came on soft to heavy going.

It appears that a sounder surface may even suit her better again which makes her an exciting proposition going forwards. She won the Group Three Salsabil Stakes with the reopposing Caught U Looking back in fourth. Ezeliya showed balance, a turn of foot and stamina in that success – all of which are key attributes for Epsom.

Forest Fairy (4)

Rossa Ryan | Ralph Beckett

The first crop of Arc winner Waldgeist are really starting to find their feet at the age of three and the sire’s flag is being waved most notably by Forest Fairy. A lightly-raced filly, she is two from two in her career with both starts coming this season. Her debut was a very impressive one at Wolverhampton where she dominated a winnable novice stakes by an eased-down six lengths. It made sense therefore, why connections should have lofty aspirations for her as soon as her next start.

That bravery was rewarded by the filly winning the Listed Cheshire Oaks on her next and latest start. Considering that was her turf debut on the tricky track of Chester, she could be marked up for a number of reasons. It was also likeable that she had the talented Port Fairy behind in a close second. Forest Fairy showed pace, balance and she is also proven over the trip, so she is ticking plenty of boxes and can’t be underestimated.

Making Dreams (10)

Clifford Lee | Karl Burke

Trainer Karl Burke could hardly have had a better time of things last Sunday when winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas with Fallen Angel and the German 1000 Guineas with Darnation. He is bidding for another fillies’ Classic here with Making Dreams who is more difficult to make a case for rather than her recent winning stablemates.

One of the most experienced runners in the line-up with 12 career outings already, she’s won four times. Two of her successes came in handicap company last year and for all she’s added to that tally with a Group Three win at Saint-Cloud, it’s difficult to see her having the necessary class to win an Oaks.

Rubies Are Red (6)

Wayne Lordan | Aidan O’Brien

Jockey Wayne Lordan rides the apparent, second string of the Ballydoyle pair in Rubies Are Red. This filly is bidding to lose her maiden tag in the Oaks which was a feat achieved by Forever Together, also trained by Aidan O’Brien. That filly was the first to break her maiden in the race since 1983 so it certainly is a rarity even with that recent success story. Rubies Are Red remains lightly raced with just three career starts, finishing third and second in a couple of maidens before finishing second to You Got To Me in the Listed Oaks Trial at Lingfield last time out.

She didn’t appear to handle the downhill run into the straight that day and it’s unclear whether that was down to greenness or the ground was too quick for her. However, she did well to finish second considering the ground she had to make up, so the ability is there but the track remains a big question mark.

Seaward (9)

Silvestre De Sousa | Ralph Beckett

Ralph Beckett has a four-strong hand in the Oaks but the outsider of his quartet is Seaward who will have to cause a big upset according to the betting to beat her three stablemates, let alone the remainder of the field.

Seaward finished third in the Listed Cheshire Oaks behind Forest Fairy and Port Fairy, only beaten one-and-a-half lengths which was a decent reappearance run. She will still have to improve significantly to add to her Ascot novice success in the Oaks.

Secret Satire (3)

Oisin Murphy | Andrew Balding

One of the key Oaks Trials has always been the Group Three Musidora Stakes at York. However, this year’s race seems to have thrown up just as many questions as answers with the favourite on the day Friendly Soul running no sort of race and finishing last. The winner of the Musidora was Secret Satire at 22/1, who pulled out a two-length success despite being keen in the early stages.

Secret Satire

Image: Secret Satire represents Andrew Balding

She’s by the sprinter Advertise which may explain her free-going tendencies which she won’t be able to get away with at Epsom. However, her dam was a Listed winner so she appears to have inherited her stamina. It’s unclear whether she’ll get and increased trip though.

Treasure (11)

James Doyle | Ralph Beckett

The Royal colours of HM The King and HM The Queen will be carried by Treasure who is another trained by Ralph Beckett. This filly only has two starts to her name, a winner on debut of a Nottingham fillies’ maiden in October before she made her reappearance when up in grade in the Listed Oaks Trial at Lingfield.

Treasure was only beaten just under two lengths behind her stablemate You Got To Me despite coming into the race with the least experience and also having the longest absence to have to defy. That was an effort worth upgrading and she’ll likely benefit no end from the experience.

War Chimes (7)

Tom Marquand | David Menuisier

David Menuisier might have counted himself unlucky in the 1000 Guineas with his representative that day, Tamfana, having no luck in running and finishing fourth at a big price. He will be hoping for another big run from a longshot in a fillies’ Classic with War Chimes in the Oaks.

She made rapid progress last season, resulting in a Listed win in Chantilly on heavy ground over one mile and one furlong. War Chimes has yet to reach those heights again in two starts this campaign, both runs also coming in France. Despite her clear improvement last year with her runs, she needs to prove that she’s trained on.

Ylang Ylang (12)

Ryan Moore | Aidan O’Brien

The formidable duo of Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore team up to try and secure O’Brien an 11th Oaks win. Ballydoyle have won the race six times in the last decade so, of course, optimal respect must be given to any representatives. Ylang Ylang is the leading hope on jockey bookings this year and has evident claims. A winner of three of her five starts in her two-year-old campaign, she always looked in need of a trip which she is getting here.

Her run in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket was in line with what she showed last season where the one-mile trip was too short for her. She stayed on to good effect which was a lovely trial for the Oaks. For all the 1000 Guineas tends to go to fillies who will want a trip in time, unlike the 2000 Guineas generally, she was far from disgraced and has the ideal profile for the Oaks for leading connections.

You Got To Me (8)

Hector Crouch | Ralph Beckett

One of the main trials for the race is, of course, the Listed Oaks Trial at Lingfield which was won this year by You Got To Me who was fairly ironically named, as her rivals never did get to her. You Got To Me made all under a well-judged ride by Hector Crouch, who retains the ride for trainer Ralph Beckett.

The time of the race was slow in comparison to the colts’ equivalent and it was only marginally quicker than the Class Two older-horses handicap which preceded the Oaks Trial. Therefore, the form must be taken with a pinch of salt with the remainder of the field given too much to do to run down You Got To Me. That said, her pedigree suggests she can’t be underestimated as her sire Nathaniel has had both an Oaks and Derby winner with Enable and Desert Crown respectively.

Kate’s verdict

It is evident that Aidan O’Brien has yet another good chance to add to his 10 Oaks wins with Ylang Ylang, who appears likely to relish the test and trip of 1m 4f around Epsom. Under Ryan Moore, the daughter of Frankel is the one to beat. However, I will be backing the lightly-raced Forest Fairy to out-run her odds for Ralph Beckett and Rossa Ryan. Unbeaten in two starts, she took the rise in grade in her stride when winning at Chester. That experience will stand her in good stead around Epsom, and she’s proven at the trip.

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