Saturday 18 November 2017

Rhododendron can bloom for Ballydoyle in Oaks

Ryan Moore riding Rhododendron. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images
Ryan Moore riding Rhododendron. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Johnny Ward

Rhododendron is bidding to extend Aidan O'Brien's flawless 2017 return in British and Irish Classics this afternoon and she is hard to oppose in the Investec Oaks.

One of those four Classic wins Ballydoyle enjoyed was when Winter upset her aforementioned stablemate in the Guineas at Newmarket. There is an argument that, with a clear run, Rhododendron would have prevailed, yet Winter's rampant performance at the Curragh last weekend advertises the task she faced that day in any case.

Ryan Moore steered her with confidence at Newmarket, yet Winter got first run. However, there is every suggestion on pedigree that today's distance will bring about progress from Rhododendron (right).

She is by Galileo and the dam, Halfway To Heaven, won the Grade One Nassau Stakes (ten furlongs). In Alluringly she has a stablemate which represents a viable each-way bet; in Pocketfullofdreams she likely has someone to help dictate the fractions.

Gate five looks fine for Rhododendron, which was most impressive as a juvenile when bolting up in the Fillies' Mile. She can emulate last year's winner of the Oaks, now-injured stablemate Minding, which also snared that two-year-old Grade One. The opposition to Rhododendron is nothing special, though Sobetsu has a rating just 3lb below the favourite's, which she was 15 lengths behind when clearly not at her best last year. She is available at 9/1 and rates a threat.

Promising stallion Nathaniel provides two of the shorter-priced runners in Enable and Natavia, both sporting the colours of Khalid Abdullah.

The last-named, the mount of Pat Smullen, could run a big race.

Enable's trainer John Gosden said: "The last thing Aidan wants is a walkover: he likes his horses competing at the top level. We've to take him on and make it as competitive as we can. I know the favourite is a fabulous filly; she is a legitimate favourite and was unlucky in the Guineas."

O'Brien has a smashing hand in the Coronation Cup in Highland Reel, Idaho and US Army Ranger, a 16/1 chance which could run a big race.

Moore will, as expected, steer Cliffs Of Moher in tomorrow's Derby. O'Brien runs five others too, Wayne Lordan aboard his son Joseph's Rekindling.

Nineteen contest the Derby, including - controversially - no-hoper Diore Lia. As well as likely favourite Cliffs Of Moher (4/1), O'Brien will run Capri (Seamus Heffernan); Douglas Macarthur (Colm O'Donoghue); and Chester Vase one-two-three Venice Beach (Donnacha O'Brien), Wings Of Eagles (Padraig Beggy) and The Anvil (Ana O'Brien).

The John Gosden-trained Cracksman landed the track's Derby Trial. Runner-up Permian - supplemented on Monday - landed a Listed prize and the Dante since.

Gosden has a strong hand, Cracksman joined by stablemates Crowned Eagle, Glencadam Glory, Khalidi and Pealer. Other runners include Craven winner Eminent and Saeed bin Suroor's trio of Benbatl, Best Solution and Dubai Thunder.

Diore Lia's participation has bizarrely dominated the headlines pre-Derby, the British Horseracing Authority yesterday prohibiting Gina Mangan from taking the ride. Now the 1,000/1 filly will be partnered by another apprentice, Paddy Pilley.

Irish Independent

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