Rhododendron and Hydrangea head Investec Oaks entries

Filed on 13 Apr 2017 @ 14:56

The entries for the Investec Oaks at Epsom Downs on Friday, June 2, have been unveiled, with 54 three-year-old fillies engaged.

Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien has won the latest two renewals of the Investec Oaks, with Minding (2016) and Qualify (2015), and been successful six times in all. He has the most entries (12) of any handler in 2017.

Heading the Ballydoyle contingent is Rhododendron, who ended 2016 by taking the G1 Dubai Fillies' Mile at Newmarket in October. The three-year-old daughter of Galileo, out of three-time G1 scorer Halfway To Heaven, is the current Investec Oaks favourite in the ante-post betting market.

Another leading contender from Ballydoyle is Hydrangea. She too is a daughter of Galileo and finished second to Rhododendron in the Dubai Fillies' Mile. Hydrangea was triumphant on her reappearance at Leopardstown on April 8 in the G3 Ballylinch Stud 1,000 Guineas Trial over seven furlongs at Leopardstown, where she beat stable companion Winter by a head, with Promise To Be True and Rain Goddess further back.

Longing has also been out in 2017, making a promising debut when third to Bengala (John Oxx) in a 10-furlong Leopardstown maiden on April 5.

O'Brien's son Joseph, who partnered two Investec Derby winners when a jockey, could have his first Investec Oaks runner as a trainer in 2017 with his two entries including Intricately. The daughter of Fastnet Rock caused a 25/1 shock when getting the better of Hydrangea and Rhododendron in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes over seven furlongs at the Curragh in September and came home fourth behind Hydrangea at Leopardstown last weekend.

There are 20 Irish-trained entries in total and the hopefuls include Tocco D'Amore (Dermot Weld) and Angel Island (Fozzy Stack) who have made eye-catching debut victories in 2017.

There could also be a rare US-trained runner in the Investec Oaks as Daddys Lil Darling (Kenny McPeek) has been entered. The Scat Daddy filly landed the G2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs in September and rounded off her 2016 campaign with a good fourth in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita, both on a dirt surface.

She has already made an appearance in G1 company this season, when a staying-on half-length runner-up in the Ashland Stakes over an extended mile on dirt at Keeneland on April 8.

Newmarket trainer James Tate could have his first Investec Oaks runner this year with Urban Fox. The Saeed Manana-owned filly acquitted herself well in several Pattern races last season and ended the campaign when third behind Rhododendron in the Dubai Fillies' Mile.

Urban Fox was also third behind Rich Legacy (Ralph Beckett) in the G2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster in September, with the biggest of her three successes coming next time out in a valuable seven-furlong conditions race at Newmarket.

Tate said: "Urban Fox is good. She has done well over the winter and our three-year-olds have made a good start to the year.

"Urban Fox had a small foot problem about a month ago which means it is only 50-50 whether she makes it to a trial next week. We will know more after we work her at the weekend but, at the moment, she is heading towards the QIPCO 1000 Guineas (G1, 1m, Newmarket, May 7).

"Having stayed a mile well in good company as a two-year-old, it made sense to give her an entry in the Investec Oaks. I think she will definitely stay 10 furlongs.

"She was quite busy last year because she took her racing so well, although she never travelled too far from home. I think the furthest she went was probably Goodwood.

"She was a light, narrow-looking filly whereas now she looks like a big, strong three-year-old."

Another Newmarket-based trainer, John Gosden, enjoyed Investec Oaks success in 2014 with Taghrooda and he has another strong hand this year with six entries.

The pick of the Gosden fillies at this stage looks to be unbeaten Dubawi grey Coronet, successful in the 10-furlong Listed Zetland Stakes at Newmarket in 2016, while Shutter Speed, Astronomy's Choice, Enable and Precious Ramotswe were all maiden scorers on their only starts last year.

Eight Investec Oaks entries are in the ownership of Godolphin, headed by Wuheida (Charlie Appleby). The Dubawi filly, unbeaten in two starts last year, triumphed from Promise To Be True in the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac over a mile at Chantilly in October.

Other leading contenders for the Maktoum family's operation include Really Special (Saeed bin Suroor), a Newmarket Listed scorer in 2016 who landed the UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial on dirt at Meydan in January, and Sobetsu (Charlie Appleby), who was the 10-length winner of Newmarket maiden in the autumn but finished a disappointing fifth in the Dubai Fillies' Mile.

Ralph Beckett has an excellent record in the Investec Oaks with two winners, Look Here in 2008 and Talent in 2013. Besides Rich Legacy,the Hampshire trainer has entered maiden winners Camerone, Crimson Rock and Isabel De Urbina.

There is a scratchings deadline for the Investec Oaks at noon on Thursday, May 18 with the six-day confirmation stage and £30,000 supplementary entry stage following on Saturday, May 27.

Filed on 13 Apr 2017 @ 14:56