Epsom Oaks Betting: Flirt with the idea of Coquet and The Fugue

The Fugue appeals as the most likely winner of the Oaks

Timeform's Adam Brookes previews the second fillies' classic of the season, highlighting one horse who appeals at huge odds...

With her dam a Ribblesdale runner-up who has produced a winner over two miles it wasn’t surprising that The Fugue benefited from a step up in trip...

Aidan O'Brien had to wait until September to claim a classic treble in 2005 but the brains of Ballydoyle could at least match that feat three months earlier this term with an arsenal of ammunition set to detonate at Epsom.

Shortest in the betting is Maybe who will bid to emulate '01 winner Imagine by stepping up directly from a mile. Although failing to meet market expectations when third in the 1000 Guineas, she was far from disgraced behind stable-companion Homecoming Queen, travelling better than most but just proving one paced when making her effort two furlongs out. A top-level winner of seven furlongs, she definitely stayed the trip at Newmarket but her stamina for another four furlongs is highly questionable (dam an out-and-out sprinter).

With that in mind, O'Brien's best chance looks to be Kissed who looked out of the top drawer when making all in the listed Salsabil Stakes at Navan on her return a month ago, maintaining her unbeaten record with a much improved performance. The close relation to Derby winner Pour Moi will have no trouble with another couple of furlongs and should rightfully be on anyone's shortlist but whether her big frame will be ideally suited to Epsom is open to debate.

The trainer could also field Twirl in the hope that she can step up on her recent Musidora reverse in which she was readily brushed aside by The Fugue despite attracting a weight of support pre-race. However, Twirl looked one paced after being headed approaching the final furlong that day and, whilst her form is good enough to win a fillies listed race, she's unlikely to be going close in a classic.

With Rockfel heroine Wading seemingly out, Devotion exposed and current odds suggesting Betterbetterbetter may not be allowed to get one over on close relatives Quarter Moon, Yesterday and All My Loving, all of whom placed at Epsom, having had just her third race when runner-up in the Cheshire Oaks (idled hitting front) last time, the Coolmore crew may also decide to let Was take her chance. The 1,200,00gns yearling acquisition came on plenty for her successful debut nine months ago when third in a ten-furlong Group 3 at Naas recently and looks up to winning races at that level with a mile and a half expected to prove within her compass.

The home defence is spearheaded by The Fugue, who built substantially on her 1000 Guineas effort, where she finished a place behind Maybe, when readily claiming the Musidora Stakes at York just 10 days later. With her dam a Ribblesdale runner-up who has produced a winner over two miles it wasn't surprising that The Fugue benefited from a step up in trip on the Knavesmire, travelling easily and just shaken up to assert a furlong out, and it seems sure that an extra two furlongs will suit her well. A fluent mover who has proved herself on a variety of ground, the timefigure recorded by The Fugue in her trial supports the impressions that she will take high rank in her division this year.

British back-up is provided by unknown quantity Vow whose victory in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, her second win in around three weeks having been unraced as a juvenile, smacked of a filly going right to the top. A half-sister to smart pair Harris Tweed and Beaten Up, both of whom are strong stayers at twelve furlongs, Vow is clearly nowhere near the finished article yet (whether that will inhabit her around the idiosyncratic Epsom is hard to say) but her potential and fast-improving profile could count for a lot, and it shouldn't be forgotten that her trainer is two from two in classics on the Downs.

Like the yard's 2008 Oaks winner Look Here, Ralph Beckett's Colima was also second in the Lingfield trial having won her sole start at two. Colima does have physical scope and stamina in her pedigree (closely related to Swinton Hurdle winner Eradicate) but it's difficult to see her keeping up with Vow if also heading to Epsom.

France have only won the Oaks once in the last 35 years but the truth is their Surrey endeavours tend to focus on the Derby and only Alain de Royer Dupre's Dalkala is currently entered for this year's fillies' race. The Aga Khan-owned relative of Daylami maintained her unbeaten record in good style with a smart effort in the Prix Cleopatre, waited with in third before coming through to lead over a furlong out, and any improvement on that would put her right in the mix. That said, she's still more likely to stay at home for the Prix de Diane and a clash with Beauty Parlour.

Godolphin have been out of luck in Epsom classics in recent years but, with sole current entry Lacily disappointing recently, it would be a surprise if they failed to supplement runaway Pretty Polly Stakes winner Kailani whose Newmarket Guineas-winning dam won the Oaks in '02 having lined up with an almost identical Timeform master rating as her daughter is likely to do this time round. By German heavy-ground Group 1 winner Monsun, it remains to be seen whether Kailani, like her mother, proves best in rain-softened conditions.

Roger Varian's Firdaws is another daughter of an Oaks winner but the Fillies' Mile third turned in a lacklustre display in a listed trial at Newbury on her recent return, raising concerns about her attitude, and the yard may yet have a late super-sub in the shape of this week's Newmarket maiden scorer Pink Damsel. Out of a US Grade 1 winner at up to a mile and a quarter and purchased for 600,000 as a yearling, Pink Damsel lived up to her price tag with a better-than-bare-result victory having lost around five lengths at the start but whether connections decide to wait for Royal Ascot's Ribblesdale with a filly who is very short on experience is the question.

Finally, Hughie Morrison is yet to saddle an Oaks runner but with stakes-winning females Ruby Rocket, Salim Toto and Kasumi having all been under his tutelage he knows how to handle a good one and he could be doubly-represented on June 1 courtesy of Shirocco Star and Coquet.

Shirocco Star justified her entry amongst Timeform's Horses To Follow 2012 somewhat when returning with a much-improved short-head second to Ribblesdale-bound Momentary at Newbury a week ago, shaping as if sure to progress further over another couple of furlongs. However, Coquet, who is set to return in the Height of Fashion Stakes, a trial won by Snow Fairy in her classic year, at Goodwood on Thursday won the same mile listed race that 2010 Oaks winner Blue Bunting took as a juvenile and has the pedigree to step up significantly faced with longer trips this year. The fact that Coquet is also half the price of her stablemate on Betfair catches the eye.

In the aforementioned Timeform publication Jamie Lynch wrote 'Let's not mess about here, as The Fugue is in the Fifty for the express purpose of winning the Oaks' and, with Lord Lloyd-Webber's filly amongst the five (Dalkala, Kailani, Kissed and Maybe being the others) who've already run to a figure within 8 lb of the average it's taken to win the race since the turn of the century, we retain strong belief in her Epsom credentials. Those who find The Fugue's current odds prohibitive, though, could do worse than have a small bet on Coquet, who comes from a yard more than adept at training quality fillies and who could well be much shorter following her imminent return.

Recommendation

Back The Fugue @ 4.47/2 and Coquet @ 48.047/1 for the Oaks at Epsom on Friday June 1

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