Sport Horse Racing

Monday 5 December 2016

Rocks ready to crush her Oaks rivals

Published 03/06/2016 | 02:30

Turret Rocks and Kevin Manning (left), here beating Marenko at Doncaster last September, are fancied to claim today’s Oaks at Epsom for Jim Bolger. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Turret Rocks and Kevin Manning (left), here beating Marenko at Doncaster last September, are fancied to claim today’s Oaks at Epsom for Jim Bolger. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

Fresh from her shock defeat to Jet Setting at the Curragh, Minding today looks like starting at odds-on to atone for that narrow setback by securing Epsom Oaks glory under Ryan Moore.

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In tomorrow's Derby, as had been flagged, Moore and Aidan O'Brien will combine for US Army Ranger.

The former clear market leader for the premier Classic had been easy to back following recent rainfall that has left the Epsom ground on the slow side.

However, the unimpressive but unexposed Chester Vase victor is again challenging John Gosden's Wings Of Desire for favouritism at odds of as low as 4/1. US Army Ranger will be joined by his closest Chester pursuer Port Douglas, which will be ridden by Colm O'Donoghue, while Idaho (Seamie Heffernan), Deauville (Jamie Spencer) and Shogun (Donnacha O'Brien) complete the Ballydoyle delegation.

Earlier on the card, the stable's star mare Found will take on eight others - including last year's King George hero Postponed - in the Coronation Cup.

The only two of the 18 left in the Derby not to stand their ground at the final declaration stage were Bravery and Black Sea, both of which could represent the yard in Sunday's French equivalent.

Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen will vie for an elusive Derby win with Harzand, while the Irish contingent is completed by Moonlight Magic for Jim Bolger and Kevin Manning.

O'Brien has won today's £475,000 Group One five times and is responsible for three of the nine runners. Of those triumphs, only Shahtoush and Qualify - the first and most recent of the quintet - have prevailed at Epsom having contested both Newmarket's 1,000 Guineas and its Irish equivalent.

That duo managed only a solitary Classic success each, so it would be a remarkable feat were Minding to plunder a second, given that this will be the third that she has tackled in just over a month.

When you think back to her utter superiority at Newmarket and the fact that O'Brien intimated that she only took her chance in the Irish version as an afterthought in lieu of a piece of work at home, it's not hard to make a case for her making amends. Prior to being out-gunned by Jet Setting at the Curragh, where she ran all the way to the line despite knocking her head on the stalls at the start, she looked an exceptional prospect.

You couldn't say with any confidence that Minding isn't still that, and it might be significant that the first two pulled 10 lengths clear in the Irish Guineas.

That said, and notwithstanding O'Brien's genius with fillies, she still faces a massive task. When you also factor in the slight doubt about Minding staying a mile-and-a-half - her dam Lillie Langtry was a pure miler - there are better value options to be had.

Seventh Heaven, the mount of last year's winning rider O'Donoghue, and the Heffernan-ridden Somehow both come here on a hat-trick. They beat some of today's rivals in winning their respective trials at Lingfield and Chester, but the worry would be that they didn't do so with any great authority. Jim Bolger is due to saddle Turret Rocks, which ran well to be sixth in the Guineas, form that has stood up better than anything else.

On her seasonal comeback at Newmarket, Kevin Manning's mount raced bang on the pace before tiring late on, keeping going to be beaten six lengths.

Commendable

That was a commendable run, from which she should come on plenty. More to the point, Turret Rocks, by last year's winning sire Fastnet Rock, is bred to be suited by this trip, as there is no shortage of stamina on the dam's side.

Successful in last year's May Hill Stakes at Doncaster before staying on to be beaten a length by Ballydoyle in the Prix Marcel Boussac, she has the scope to step up to this level, although she is unproven on soft.

Bolger's team has been a little in and out, but, for the most part, his horses are running more or less to form.

At odds of up to 7/1, then, Turret Rocks is fancied to score, 25 years after Jet Ski Lady's stunning Oaks triumph for the stable under Christy Roche.

Irish Independent

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