Epsom Oaks Ante-Post: Zvezda Holds Crystal-Clear Chance

It is less than two weeks until the Epsom Oaks
It is less than two weeks until the Epsom Oaks

Ben Fearnley takes an American approach to the Epsom Oaks and uncovers an embryonic British Triple Crown bid, as well as a couple of recommended bets.

"Hailing from the family of Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory, it’s not inconceivable that Legatissimo would stay the extended 14-furlong trip of the St. Leger"

In American racing nothing matters more than the illusive three-year-old Triple Crown, which has escaped all challengers since 1978. This could all change next month, however, as American Pharoah bids to add the final leg, Belmont Stakes, to the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes titles he has already won.

The Triple Crown in Britain is less discussed, maybe due to the fact that the disparity in distances between the three British classics is much greater than the American equivalents, making a challenger an even rarer beast. Coolmore went close in 2012 with Camelot, who won the first two legs only to be denied in the St. Leger, but little has been said about their 1000 Guineas winner Legatissimo potentially bidding for the fillies' Triple Crown, last completed by Oh So Sharp in 1985.

Legatissimo had an unorthodox preparation for the 1000 Guineas, winning a listed contest at Gowran Park over nine and a half furlongs just a week before the Newmarket classic. She then ran out an impressive winner of the Guineas, a strongly-run affair bringing her abundant stamina into play, and the fact she was never stronger than at the finish bodes very well for her Epsom claims. Hailing from the family of Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory, it's not inconceivable that Legatissimo would stay the extended 14-furlong trip of the St. Leger, and the question will no doubt be posed should she win the Oaks.

As the market would suggest, the Oaks this year is a wide-open affair and there are a number of horses capable of stopping Legatissimo completing the first Guineas/Oaks double since Kazzia won both in 2002. Legatissimo currently heads the Timeform weight-adjusted ratings for the Oaks on 134, and although she should improve for the step up in trip her market rival Crystal Zvezda (125P) is arguably open to significantly more improvement on the back of her most impressive reappearance at Newbury on Lockinge Day, where she swept round a field of unexposed fillies and quickened clear in great style. A half-sister to the very smart Hillstar who stays 12 furlongs, there is every chance Crystal Zvezda will get the trip in the Oaks, and, possessing a potent turn of foot, she is certainly an exciting prospect and well worth her position towards the head of the market.

Aside from the favourite Legatissimo, Coolmore also have Found entered in the Oaks where she would hold an excellent chance if taking up her entry. The doubt from an ante-post perspective with Found is that connections are reportedly likely to supplement her for the Derby, seemingly lacking in adequate colts for the race at this stage.

Jack Naylor wasn't far behind Found in the Irish 1000 Guineas at the weekend and she very much caught the eye in the process, having to come from further back in the field than the other principals and getting a bump on the way through. Based on running style and pedigree, Jack Naylor is likely to improve for the step up in trip in the Oaks, and has to enter the reckoning.

Pamona could finish only third behind Crystal Zvezda on her return at Newbury, beaten four lengths having been sent off as favourite, but she shaped better than the distance beaten suggests, not getting a clear passage and finishing with running left. Pamona shaped as if she will be suited by the extra two furlongs at Epsom and she is worth a small bet at current prices.

A win for Legatissimo would once again raise the tantalising prospect of a horse completing the Triple Crown, but she's up against a seriously exciting filly in Crystal Zvezda, and it is Sir Michael Stoute's charge who gets the nod, with Pamona put up as a value alternative.

Recommendations:

Back Crystal Zvezda at 5.59/2 1pt win
Back Pamona at 21.020/1 0.5pts win

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