Wednesday 24 April 2019

Appleby to thwart O'Brien's Oaks bid

Trainer Charlie Appleby has high hopes for Wild Illusion in today's Epsom Oaks. Photo: Edward Whitaker
Trainer Charlie Appleby has high hopes for Wild Illusion in today's Epsom Oaks. Photo: Edward Whitaker
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Aidan O'Brien has strength in numbers for today's Oaks with over half of the nine-runner field but the master of Ballydoyle may come up short as he bids for a magnificent seven in the Epsom Classic.

With his leading fancy Magical scratched from the race on Wednesday due to a minor setback, it's a case of quality over quantity for O'Brien in what looks a below-average renewal, even though it's always perilous to rule him out.

Magic Wand (9/2) leads his quintet on the back of an impressive Cheshire Oaks success - when re-opposing stablemate Together Forever was three and a half lengths behind in second - much like last year's brilliant winner Enable for John Gosden.

O'Brien has been open in saying that the soft ground (good to soft in places) at the Surrey track might not play to the strengths of his brigade although Lingfield Oaks third Flattering (20/1) is overpriced given her Cork maiden romp in testing conditions.

Magic Wand has progressed with each of her runs this year but more improvement will be needed if the daughter of Galileo is to land the €570,000 event and Ryan Moore's mount may find a couple too good for her.

There's no reason to indicate that Together Forever (6/1) can turn the tables while I Can Fly (12/1) showed nothing to suggest she's up to winning a race of this calibre when finishing well beaten in the English 1,000 Guineas last month.

The final piece of the puzzle for O'Brien is Curragh Group Three scorer Bye Bye Baby, an interesting contender in the hands of Wayne Lordan considering the way she got through the sticky conditions at the Kildare track three weeks ago, but the prize may be staying on home soil again.

While Classic success is old hat for O'Brien, Charlie Appleby and William Buick are bidding for their first triumph and they have an able partner in Godolphin's Wild Illusion (5/2 favourite), which was fourth in the 1000 Guineas having race prominently.

Winner of the Group One Prix Marcel Boussac on soft going at Chantilly last October, the daughter of Dubawi has plenty going for her and her trainer is confident that a step up in trip, which she looks to be crying out for, will see significant improvement.

"We always felt and hoped that stepping up in trip would be her forte. With the conditions likely to be testing she has proven Group One form on soft ground. She ticks a lot of the boxes," a confident Appleby said this week.

"I couldn't be happier with her. She is a very straightforward filly - ever since day one. She has raced close to the pace in the past because we always felt she just wants a trip."

Perfect Clarity (7/1) is the one most likely to throw down the gauntlet to her with Clive Cox also chasing a maiden Classic win with his unbeaten filly impressing on both of her career starts, most recently when taking the Lingfield Oaks Trial.

O'Brien will also hope to add to his Group One tally earlier in the card in which he is double handed in the Coronation Cup (3.10) - a contest he has farmed in recent years, winning six of the last ten runnings.

He saddles recent Chester Diamond Ormond Stakes winner Idaho and the consistent Yucatan but all eyes will be on the brilliant Cracksman, which continued where he left off in a glorious three-year-old campaign by running out an impressive winner of the Prix Ganay on his seasonal debut,.

Gosden's charge is rated 8lbs superior than his nearest rival Hawkbill - the Dubai Sheema Classic winner which had its form franked when runner-up Poet's Word sluiced up at Sandown last week - and Appley's five-year-old can chase him home.

Elsewhere, Saxon Warrior (10/11) will race from the difficult draw of stall one in a field of 12 for tomorrow's Epsom Derby as the 2,000 Guineas hero looks to compete the second leg of the Triple Crown for O'Brien.

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