It's nigh on impossible to pick holes in the top of the market Oaks form with the current favourite being this year's 1000 Guineas winner and those in behind at Newmarket being very much 'the right ones'. Legatissimo’s form ties in closely with Jack Naylor, 3rd in the Marcel Boussac behind the Moyglare 3rd, Found (what a Moyglare that was with the eventual 1000 Guineas 2nd occupying that same place at the Curragh), and behind the French Guineas winner Ervedya. The Aga Khan's filly looked the standout performer on that afternoon at Longchamp, to the eye and on the clock, and the form really stands up. Irish Rookie was 2nd in the Pouliches, a further boost to the 1000 Guineas, and Tiggy Wiggy, Timeform's joint highest rated juvenile of last year, was back in 3rd at Newmarket having resorted to preferred front-running tactics. A rock solid Guineas run at a scorching pace, suiting the stamina laden winner with a very positive eye on June 5th. No holes here.
Pamona - 1pt e/w @ 25/1
A look back to the Graded juvenile races last year shows another pedigree laden with stamina that cropped up in almost all the key races. Malabar looks as though she’d get an Oaks trip in her sleep. Is she good enough to win? Perhaps not. There is, however, plenty of juice in her price and I’m sad to see she goes for the Irish Guineas. The muted plan to take in an Oaks trial appears to have been, well...muted. I'm not mad on these fillies running in a Classic just 12 days after the Curragh, though Aidan O’Brien has a record that goes someway to proving otherwise. You still have to go back 14 years for the last filly to do the Irish Guineas/Oaks double and it would take a scintillating performance at the weekend to threaten the main protagonists for this year's Epsom classic.
That could come from Bocca Baciata, who beat impressive Chester winner Diamondandrubies (3rd) at Navan and boy does that form look impressive. Pleascach (2nd) followed up by hammering Dermot Weld’s Zannda in the G3 Blue Wind Stakes at Leopardstown and her trainer has since suggested she'd head for the Curragh. Zannda, lest we forget, was 2nd in the Pretty Polly having beaten Wedding Vow at the start of the year and that filly followed up with a 2nd to oh, erm, what’s her name? Yes, that’s right, Legatissimo. Even the 2nd wave of Oaks form looks pretty impenetrable. Bocca Baciata also had the subsequent Derrinstown 2nd, Summaya, in behind and would be a leading Oaks candidate should she show up on June 5th. All eyes on Sunday. Jessie Harrington also has the aforementioned Jack Naylor, who beat Legatissimo en route to her 3rd in Paris, though she looks to be Irish Oaks bound.
Back to O’Brien. The trainer has had mixed start to his year and the fact Gleneagles won the first British Classic of the season is a big nod to his talent given how some have been running first up. The same could be said about Diamondsandrubies, one of his most impressive trials winners, though she did have the benefit of a run. Together Forever would look, to my eye, the most likely winner. She fits the bill, a Group 1 winner at a mile, she has tried further and came up just short in the Musidora when giving a softish lead and 4lbs to a progressive, race-fit filly from a yard that can do no wrong at the minute. Alexandrova was of course beaten at 8/15 in the Musidora before going on to win at Epsom. The other beaten O’Brien filly in one of the key trials was Wedding Vow, who came unstuck at Lingfield. Last turning in off a modest pace at best, her Legatissimo form tells us she is better than that and she should improve for the extra trip at Epsom. Her dam was a maiden but 2nd in an Oaks, a half sister to a Derby 3rd, and, whilst winning looks a stretch, she really could be in the mix if turning up. 50/1 looks tempting for all her Irish Guineas entry is a head scratcher.
One more key bit of form to talk about is the Newbury trial won by Crystal Zvezda. Switched left after the start, she travelled beautifully off the pace and then came widest of the lot up the straight to win with a fair bit in hand. Pamona was a closing 3rd and luckless. Favourite on the day, whether Luca Cumani's filly would have got to the winner with a clear run is at best debatable. She'd have been closer, certainly. It’s worth noting that, pedigree aside, she took longer to pick up once in the clear than the eventual 1st and 2nd before flying home under hands and heels and a couple of taps near the line. Andrea Atzeni didn’t appear to give everything initially either, until 2nd became a possibility. Her pedigree isn’t short on pace but to the eye she looked a filly in want of 12. Pamona has the juvenile form in the book, finishing ahead of the Pretty Polly winner on debut before a comfortable enough win next time and deserves her place in the Oaks. The disparity in the betting between the Stoute filly (13/2) and Pamona (25/1) seems too big and 4th placed Entertainment, who Pamona beat comfortably in her maiden win, provides a nice form link with that of Diamondsandrubies at Chester.
Also entered from the Cumani ranks is Lady Of Dubai, due to run in the Goodwood trial this week. That race is often used by Cumani as a prep for Royal Ascot or for the Listed Ballymacol Stud Stakes at Newbury between Epsom and Ascot. If Lady Of Dubai were to win well at Goodwood then perhaps the temptation would be to follow last year’s winner, Marsh Daisy, and the likes of Coquet, Beatrice Aurore and 2010 Oaks winner Snow Fairy to Epsom. I like that her juvenile form has a tie with that fortress of 3 year old form boasted by those at the top of the Oaks market. 2nd to Irish Rookie when last seen in the Montrose Stakes, Lady Of Dubai has a pedigree all about stamina. She will want at least 10 and connections were reportedly very pleased with her run at Newmarket on ground that was on the soft side. She couldn’t match Irish Rookie for pace but was subsequently given an Oaks entry as they ‘think plenty of her’ as that 450,000gns price tag would suggest. Would Cumani run both? I wonder, and think not. Paloma ran in the race that Volume won last year on her way to Epsom whilst Lady Of Dubai looks to have been appointed the Cumani campaign targeting post Oaks racing. She has to win at Goodwood and even so could head for the Ribblesdale but 50/1 is still tempting.
A word for the French too, whose challenge looks to be headed by the expensive Al Naamah, just touched off in Group company last time. She will need to improve on that a fair bit but she was making her reappearance in a Group 3 and I’m not sure she was asked for absolutely everything as is often the case with Fabre horse first up. Al Naamah is beautifully bred, sister to an Oaks winner, by a Derby winner and out of a half sister to a Derby winner and one would think there’d be improvement to come at 1 mile 4. It’s worth pointing out they finished in something of a heap and whether that form can stand up to that of those heading the Oaks betting remains to be seen.
It looks a vintage Oaks and difficult to oppose Legatissimo, even at around the 4/1 mark, with Ryan Moore likely to partner her (though he's not short on options). Lady Of Dubai would be a tentative selection at very healthy odds but hand on heart I don’t think her trainer will go this route and the Ribblesdale, where he went with Cosmodrome after she won the Height Of Fashion Stakes a few years back, may be her chance at the top level. From Ballydoyle, Together Forever looks sure to line up and is a Group 1 winner. The 3 ahead of her in the betting won’t defect though and her 8/1 odds will not be vastly different come race time. I'd also love to chance Easter should she turn up. PAMONA is currently 25/1 and, whilst she wasn’t simply an unlucky loser at Newbury, should she really be 5 times the price of the winner that day? A trial which stands up well in the context of this strong Oaks, both fillies are likely to appreciate further but with Paloma looking very likely to be the Cumani representative, those odds ought to be a fair bit shorter come race day.