Moth looks the leading light for O'Brien
MOTH and Say, Aidan O'Brien's two Investec Oaks contenders, face a huge task as they bid to continue the Ballydoyle maestro's fine record in the Epsom fillies' Classic.
O'Brien is the only Irish-based trainer to win the prestigious 12-furlong Group One since Jet Ski Lady stormed 10 lengths clear for Christy Roche and Jim Bolger in 1991.
The Seamie Heffernan-ridden Was brought O'Brien's running tally to four last year. This time, the ever-dependable Kildare native is on Say, after champion jockey Joseph O'Brien plumped for the 1,000 Guineas third Moth.
A particularly strong home defence is spearheaded by Secret Gesture and Liber Nauticus. Michael Stoute's Liber Nauticus showed a willing attitude to grind out a decisive victory in the Musidora at York, while Secret Gesture thrust Ralph Beckett, who achieved glory in this with Look Here in 2008, back into the big time by striding 10 lengths in the Lingfield trial. Both have plenty to prove, but they are smart prospects.
Still, in terms of form, Moth is undoubtedly the horse to beat. The Guineas line was shown in a grand light when runner-up Just The Judge cruised home in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh on Sunday, and the Newmarket mile simply looked inadequate for Moth as she weaved her way through late on to finish with a flourish.
As a Galileo three-parts sister to the stable's 2008 Cheshire Oaks winner Sail, Moth ought to see out the full mile and a half without any great difficulty.
She is also ground versatile, so the rain-softened going is unlikely to stop her from delivering her exquisite young rider what would be a debut victory in any of the fillies' Classics.
Say, put forward in this corner as a value option for the race last weekend, also still has each-way appeal at double-figure odds.
However, the runaway Cork winner does have to improve, and the fact that Moth has drifted to as big as 7/2 following a plunge on market leader Secret Gesture makes her the most sensible win option now.
The only other raider on duty at Epsom is Custom Cut in the Group Three Diomed Stakes. An absolute revelation since being acquired out of Dermot Weld's stable by Tramore-based restricted licence holder George Kent, the five-time winner will be suited by the change in going, which is officially described as good to soft.
On ratings, he has a bit to find, especially with Gabrial, Gregorian and Producer, all of which are in receipt of weight. Nonetheless, he is an honest horse whose graph has yet to level out, so he might just defy fancy prices to prevail under Johnny Murtagh.
In the Princess Elizabeth Stakes, John Gosden's Starscope can build on its reappearance fourth at York. Placed in Group One company on soft last year, William Buick's mount is another that will relish the easy going on the fabled Surrey Downs.