Tony Calvin: Two to play at big prices in the Oaks betting

Will Epsom yield another huge winner for Tony Calvin?
Will Epsom yield another huge winner for Tony Calvin?

Tony Calvin recommended 2015 Oaks winner Qualify at a massive 110.0109/1 on the Betfair Exchange last year, and while he can't match those triple figure odds this year, his two Epsom picks are still trading at handsome prices...

"Epsom may not be ideal for Harlequeen, as she is still clearly an inexperienced, buzzy sort - and, like many of these, connections may opt to wait for the Ribblesdale - but the promise of her York run was there for all to see and I am surprised that she is such a big price."

Recommended Bets
Back Harlequeen at 34.033/1 or bigger for the Oaks, or 33-1 with the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Skiffle at 95.094/1 for the Oaks

It was sad to see Minding beaten in the Irish 1,000 Guineas on Sunday, and not just because it is always disappointing to see the colours of a potential superstar lowered.

But what bothered me more - and this is going to come across badly with the purists, I know - was that the horse predictably drifted in the Oaks betting on the back of the defeat.

And that was very bad news for those of us keen to take her on in the Classic, for which she was trading at around evens pre-race on the exchange and therefore nicely making the market for the non-believers. She currently trades at 3.02/1.

I actually don't think that she lost too much in defeat on Sunday, to be honest. The fact that she was beaten by a confirmed mudlark in Jet Setting on the softest ground she had encountered in her career, and that they pulled 10 lengths clear of Now Or Never in third, was clearly no disgrace.

Especially in light of the fact that she only ran there after a last-minute change of heart after Ballydoyle's bad scope on Friday morning, and that she banged her head on leaving the stalls, suffering a six-inch graze to her face and bursting her sinus. I don't know what the latter is, but it doesn't sound great to me.

Aidan O'Brien said after the race that he didn't think there would be "any change of plan" for the filly, but that doesn't seem to the ideal preparation for a Classic. And that is without factoring in a hard race on testing conditions just 12 days before the Oaks.

Going into the race, I was not aware of a horse who had successfully completed the Newmarket-Curragh-Epsom Oaks treble - three Classics in under five weeks is a huge ask, even if Finsceal Beo came within a head of the English-French-Irish 1,000 Guineas treble in three weeks in 2007 - and then we come to the not inconsiderable matter of Minding's pedigree.

In short, she is far from guaranteed to get the trip, even if she may still outclass the opposition.

This is a very messy, and "guessy", race to approach from an ante-post of view, but also a very attractive one in that I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest were Minding not to turn up at Epsom now. The women - and men - I know wouldn't leave the house for a fortnight if they had a spot on the end of their nose, let alone a burst hooter.

The problem is what will Aidan O'Brien run if Minding doesn't rock up? Or indeed, how many of his nine other entries will run, even if she does.

I certainly wouldn't be in a rush to take 5.04/1 about Ballydoyle, especially after she missed Sunday's Irish Guineas after a bad scope, or poor blood test, or whatever it was.

And who knows if Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Seventh Heaven, or Cheshire Oaks winner Somehow, are going to be allowed to take their chance. On the other hand, O'Brien could still turn up mob-handed, as he has been known to do.

I would probably be keenest on Even Song if she runs, as Simple Verse's half-sister was crying out for 1m4f when staying on into third in the Pretty Polly.

Odds of 12.5 were tempting but I have to look outside the O'Brien challenge for my bet, and am going to put up a flier and suggest a few quid on two horses at price.

The first horse is Skiffle, currently trading at 95.094/1 on the exchange - odds of 80.079/1 plus would be fair - and we are firmly odds-against to even get a run for our money, make no mistake. So you may want to ignore this bit!

Skiffle only made her debut when third in an Ascot maiden 17 days ago, but she took a giant leap forward when beating The Black Princess by a length in the Height Of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood last week.

The last plan I heard for the filly was the Ribblesdale, and as far as I am aware it still is, but I cannot believe that Godolphin aren't having second thoughts and considering supplementing her on May 28 and then see what happens with the entries.

She looked all the world like a horse who would be suited by 1m4f at Goodwood last time, and the pedigree also backs up the run-style. She is by Dubawi and the distaff side of her pedigree suggests that the Oaks trip will be no problem whatsoever.

She is not even quoted by the fixed-odds firms - and probably rightly so - but my hunch, and hope, is that Godolphin will look at the race again and chance their arm. It's a flier, so like I said you may want to ignore, but I'll be having a few quid on her.

If you want a likelier runner, than Harlequeen is your girl at 34.033/1 or bigger on the exchange - or at 33-1 with the Sportsbook - and she is the main recommendation.

Considering that she fought Silvestre De Sousa from the start in the Musidora last time, she ran a pretty remarkable race to still have enough left in the tank to finish off her race so well in fourth.

Epsom may not be ideal for her, as she is still clearly an inexperienced, buzzy sort - and, like many of these, connections may opt to wait for the Ribblesdale - but the promise of her York run was there for all to see and I am surprised that she is such a big price. And she did win at Goodwood on her debut last season, albeit on soft ground in a five-runner race.

The extra trip shouldn't be a problem on what we saw at the Knavesmire - sire Canford Cliffs wouldn't be the most obvious stamina influence, though he does have a good middle-distance prospect in Stargazer, but the dam won over 1m2f at two and got 1m4f a three - and she has the potential to be a big improver if proving more tractable.

I wouldn't put you off the Musidora fifth Australian Queen at 130.0129/1 either, as Arabian Queen's half-sister is another who could improve a fair deal for 1m4f, as I think this Classic could be ripe for another upset.

Recommended Bets
Back Harlequeen at 34.033/1 or bigger for the Oaks, or 33-1 with the Betfair Sportsbook
Back Skiffle at 95.094/1 for the Oaks


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