Timeform Preview: The Oaks

Frankie Dettori and John Gosden
Will Frankie Dettori and John Gosden be celebrating again?

Timeform preview Friday's Oaks at Epsom and pick out their best two bets...

"She was well on top at the finish at Lingfield last time, and though that isn't the strongest form on offer, it hinted at a bigger performance to come."

Timeform on Anapurna

Enable actually started at 6/1 in the year she won, with the eventual runner-up Rhododendron sent off the 11/8-on favourite, but it's hard not to feel that this year's Oaks - due off at 16:30 on Friday - is one of the more open renewals of recent times, with Pink Dogwood, a sister to the Irish Derby winner Latrobe, and Mehdaayih, an impressive winner of the Cheshire Oaks last time who was supplemented on Monday, heading the betting.

Mehdaayih was something of a slow-burner last term, off the mark at the third time of asking at Yarmouth in late-October, but was backed as if defeat was out of the question - as in hindsight it clearly was - on her reappearance at Chelmsford (two-runner handicap, won from a BHA mark of 84) in April. She completed her hat-trick when beating Manuela de Vega by four and a half lengths in the listed Cheshire Oaks at Chester last time, quickening to lead approaching the final furlong and storming clear impressively despite hanging left. She's not a certain stayer on pedigree, but won't have a problem with 1½m judging by that performance, and is still open to further improvement.

Manuela de Vega's two wins last term included a 1m listed race at Pontefract (by two and three quarter lengths from Three Comets), and she looked unlucky not to finish closer under a 3 lb penalty at Chester last time, not getting a clear run turning for home. A good-looking filly with plenty of scope, she remains capable of better, and though her sister Isabel de Urbina was well-held in the 2017 renewal of this race, it's worth noting that she went on to win over the trip.

Pink Dogwood leads a strong Ballydoyle challenge, as Aidan O'Brien seeks his ninth win in the race, and fourth in the last five years. She is a sister to the Irish Derby winner Latrobe and took a while to get the hang of things last season, eventually successful in a heavy-ground 1m maiden at Gowran (by seven lengths from Bodhicitta) in September. She signed off with a front-running fifth in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp, and improved again when winning a 1¼m listed race at Navan (Tarnawa third) last time. Clearly, she owes her position in the betting to connections/pedigree rather than what she actually achieved on the track as a two-year-old, but she's open to further improvement and is likely to take another step forward here.

Other contenders from the yard include Fleeting, who showed a good attitude to make a winning start at Limerick last season, and got back on track when winning the 1m May Hill Stakes at Doncaster (by one and a half lengths from Star Terms, Peach Tree tenth) on her final start last season. She was unfancied and ran no sort of race (appeared outpaced throughout) when last of 15 to Hermosa in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on her reappearance, suggesting all wasn't right, but has always looked more of an Oaks filly (dam 1¼m-1¾m winner) and certainly isn't one to discount too readily at a big price, especially if the market offers any encouragement.

Delphinia is from a precocious family, but is another who took a while to get the hang of things last term, getting off the mark at the third attempt when winning 1m maiden at Galway. She was much improved when a length third (stablemate Peach Tree one place further back) to Tarnawa in the 1¼m Blue Wind Stakes at Naas last time, keeping on once headed over two furlongs out, but has a mountain to climb on the form book here. The last-named, representing Dermot Weld rather than O'Brien, is the first foal of a winner up to 12.5f, so the longer trip here should be in her favour; a typically late-maturing Aga Khan horse, she's respected.

While Mehdaayih appears to be the number one hope for John Gosden, it would be folly to ignore the claims of Anapurna. She was unable to follow in her siblings' footsteps with a win at two, but has impressed in a couple of starts this term, winning an all-weather maiden at Lingfield (1¼m, by five lengths from Dawn Crusade) in January and improving again when following up back there on the grass in the 11.6f listed Oaks Trial (by six lengths from the promising Tauteke, well on top at the finish) last time. She's open to further improvement, and is from a very talented family, but temperament is a constant in the pedigree, too.

The William Haggas-trained Frankellina won at Yarmouth last term and would surely have followed up in the Musidora Stakes at York on her reappearance (dead-heat neck-second to Nausha) had she not given away so much ground at the start. She's not one to take lightly with further improvement on the cards, and has plenty to recommended her for those willing to take a chance on such an inexperienced filly.

Maqsad is from a good French family and stepped up on two winless runs last term when narrowly winning a 1m maiden at Newmarket (by a short head from Twist 'N' Shake who has produced two useful efforts since) in April. Maqsad followed up in impressive fashion in the 1¼m listed Pretty Polly Stakes there (by five lengths from Shambolic) last time, travelling strongly and quickly forging clear in the final furlong. She stayed on well that day, suggesting this longer trip should be within range (not guaranteed on pedigree), and remains a very exciting prospect if running here in preference to the Prix de Diane.

A strong home team also includes Lavender's Blue, who built on her maiden promise when a neck-second of eight to Queen Power in a 1¼m listed race at Newbury (Sh Boom sixth) last time, tanking along and looking all over the winner when hitting the front two furlongs out, just not clued up enough to seal matters. She's open to further improvement and should stay beyond 1¼m (half-sister to 1½m winner Sing A Rainbow), but needs to take another step forward.

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