O'Donoghue shines as Qualify storms home to claim Oaks
Aidan O'Brien isn't synonymous with shocks, especially at Epsom where he is the undisputed Classic king, but he produced one yesterday when Qualify, an unconsidered 50/1 shot and perceived as his third string, got up in the last two strides to deny the favourite Legatissimo a famous Guineas-Oaks double.
Adding to the surprise she carried the colours of Chantal Regalado-Gonzalez, whose husband John Murrell bought into the filly, bred by the trainer, just before last year's Breeders' Cup. The filly she beat carried the Coolmore colours sported by 95 per cent of the Ballydoyle string.
Races around Epsom are often rough, but yesterday's was as rough an Oaks as there has been for a while. A furlong and a half out seven fillies were still in contention and a concertina effect from the outside in saw Together Forever turned sideways; Diamondsandrubies, which remarkably got back on an even keel to finish fourth, was almost on her knees, and William Buick was nearly knocked off Star Of Seville, which had made the running for the first 10 furlongs.
Legatissimo and Qualify, which had two behind her turning for home, came through the incident unscathed and the Guineas winner's turn of foot took her and Ryan Moore two lengths clear.
But Qualify and Colm O'Donoghue had been building a head of steam and as they hit the rising ground their momentum suddenly began to look unstoppable. The pair got up to win by a short head.
"It took us a couple of runs to learn how to ride her last year and Joseph (O'Brien) said he'd drop her out stone cold last one day and she bolted up," said the trainer. "She didn't get a clear run in the Breeders' Cup, the first Guineas (Newmarket) went a bit wrong and nobody noticed the way she finished at The Curragh."
For O'Donoghue, 34, it was a career highlight for a man who has picked up some fantastic rides in the past. Treasure Beach was second in the Derby and won the Irish Derby, while Bracelet gave him an Irish Oaks last year. "She was very good," he said. "Stepping up in trip has helped but she had the early pace to get up there and I wanted to make sure she had the most uncomplicated trip. I've been fortunate to ride around the world and have some big winners but an Oaks is very special." (© Daily Telegraph, London)