Tony Calvin takes a look at the confusing Oaks betting picture where Aidan O'Brien is mob-handed with a host of potential winners...
"Hydrangea's Group 1 juvenile form obviously ties in very closely with the favourite and the merit of her defeat of Winter in the Irish 1,000 Guineas trial over 7f in April is there for all to see. Not only did she beat the Newmarket Classic winner there, she also had subsequent Group 3 winners back in third and fifth there."
Aidan O'Brien still has seven of the 23 left in the Investec Oaks - the one of his that I liked at a price, Promise To Be True, was pulled out at the recent confirmation stage - and I don't think anyone would quibble with Rhododendron heading the market.
Whether or not she would have beaten her stablemate Winter in the 1,000 Guineas with a clear shot is anyone's guess - she was hampered at a vital stage, though you shouldn't overlook how well the two-length winner travelled throughout and put the race to bed at Newmarket - but we do know the step up to 1m4f really should suit Rhododendron on pedigree.
She is by Galileo out of a triple-winning Group 1 filly, over a mile and 1m2f, and is already the class horse coming into the race. The problem, as ever, with the blindingly obvious is the price and recent support now sees her trading at just 2.6413/8. Pass.
The race does have a very solid shape to it at the moment, with the top of the market hard to quibble with.
Enable was very impressive in beating Alluringly in the Cheshire Oaks.
Available at 12/1 straight after that win, albeit for a matter of minutes, she is now a 4.84/1 chance on the exchange. And the Nathaniel filly (that sire was also responsible for impressive Saturday's Newbury Listed race winner Natavia - a race that has been a good pointer to the Oaks in recent years - and she is also a possible for the Classic at 20/1+) looks set to be hard to kick out of the frame on May 2. The Chester runner-up is well-regarded, too.
John Gosden also has the third favourite - he would actually have three of the top four in the betting should his Musidora winner Shutter Speed be re-directed here from the French Oaks - in the shape of Coronet at 10.09/1.
A winner over 1m2f at Newmarket at two, she went off favourite for the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary on her reappearance but sat last and as a result had little chance the way the race developed. She did very well to finish third to Sobetsu, coming from way off the pace, with Frankie looking after her.
The winner should also be coming here but it looks like they are swerving the race, but Coronet looks sure to be suited by the extra 2f on run-style, if not pedigree perhaps, but she has a fair bit to find on form with the principals and I just wonder he she has the tactical pace for Epsom.
Horseplay is due to strut her stuff at the Breakfast With The Stars at Epsom on Tuesday morning, and the Pretty Polly winner is a feasible 15.014/1 chance for the stable that won this race with Casual Look in 2003, for all that her form looks some way detached from the betting principals at this stage.
If there is to be a shock then it is likely to come from one of O'Brien's outsiders. He has won his race with 50/1 and 20/1 pokes in recent years, Qualify (put up by yours truly at 110.0109/1 on these very pages) and Was, and this race has a history of throwing up shocks, which probably isn't surprising given plenty of fillies are stepping up fully 4f for the first time.
It could be that Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas gives us very late clues - O'Brien's Qualify (2015) and Shahtoush (1998) both won at Epsom after finishing 10th there, and his Imagine did the Classic double in 2001 - but that looks unlikely this year given there are only six days between the two races. The gap is normally double that. But it's possible, so don't rule it out.
Hydrangea could blossom into a Classic winner
The one that interests me most at this stage is Hydrangea, though I am not sticking her up as a bet as I don't know if she is an intended runner at Epsom.
I got mixed messages from what was a confusing interview with the trainer on ATR on Sunday. Well, it was confusing to me, anyway, as I thought he was talking about sending her to Epsom with Rhododendron, but it appears he probably meant she was going to the Curragh with Winter this weekend. It wasn't clear.
Now, she could yet run in the 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Sunday and at Epsom, and if any horse is overpriced in the Oaks on form - and I notice Betfair Sportsbook are ducking her at just 16/1 - then it is Hydrangea at 50.049/1 and bigger on the exchange, and a general 33/1 chance in the wider marketplace. Her last-traded priced on the exchange for the Oaks is 300.0299/1 though, so be aware!
You do have to forgive her a very mediocre run when 10th in the 1,000 Guineas last time, where she started a well-backed 9/1 but didn't finish her race off at all and looked very awkward and ill-at-ease in the closing stages. If you do, then she is no 33/1+ chance.
Her Group 1 juvenile form obviously ties in very closely with the favourite and the merit of her defeat of Winter in the Irish 1,000 Guineas trial over 7f in April is there for all to see. Not only did she beat the Newmarket Classic winner there, she also had subsequent Group 3 winners back in third and fifth there.
The obvious question she has to answer is her stamina, as well as her likely participation. Like Churchill, she is by Galileo out of a 5f winner and has plenty of pace in her pedigree, and she doesn't look to be crying out for an extra half-mile on run-style.
But she is also a full-sister to two middle-distance winners, notably The United States, who won a Group 3 over 1m2f in Ireland before picking up a Group 1 win in Australia over the same trip as well as winning a Group 2 over 1m4f110yd.
They confirm for Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh at the five-day stage tomorrow morning, and she is currently third favourite for that race behind the evens-chance Winter.
If she runs there, then she has to be viewed as an unlikely runner at Epsom given the quick turnaround, but she deserves more respect than her current quotes.
But it has to be a watching brief for now, for the reasons stated above. Keep that powder dry, as they say.
I'll have a look at a very confusing Derby picture after the next forfeit stage, which I think is tomorrow.
Tony Calvin P&L (April 14 to May 20)
Staked: 50pts (48 to win, two to place)
Six winners; 44 losers
P&L (to BSP):+2.96pts