With Guineas weekend already a distant memory, punters are looking for Oaks and Derby clues and the outlook of the next two British classics is changing almost every day.
We may have to wait until next week’s crucial Dante Stakes before the picture becomes really clear for the Derby, but the Oaks already looks exciting after a couple of top performances in the last few days.
Aidan O’Brien’s Pink Dogwood was already at the head of this market having reappeared at Navan to win a Listed race, though in truth the performance taken on its own was nothing special and it always appeared that the market would change.
She remains at the top of the betting at around the 7/2 mark, but on 1000 Guineas day last Sunday William Haggas’ Maqsad was slashed right into 5/1 in places (now 7/1) after turning the Pretty Polly Stakes into a procession with a comfortable five-length win. She is definitely the type to improve again and, being by a Galileo mare is likely to want the mile-and-a-half at Epsom.
Before Maqsad’s victory there was Group 1 success for the O’Brien camp when their Hermosa took the feature race, earning quotes of 7/1 for Epsom but many a handicapper has already observed that her performance in the 1000 Guineas was really no better than Maqsad’s in the Pretty Polly and the latter may have more improvement.
The picture changed yet again on Wednesday at Chester’s May meeting when John Gosden sent two fillies to challenge for the Cheshire Oaks. This race has been a great trial in recent times; Enable won it two years ago and last year Forever Together was second before going onto Oaks glory.
Frankie Dettori had chosen to ride Fanny Logan this time around and she remains a prospect but the Gosden second-string Mehdaayih, ridden by Rab Havlin, spread-eagled her field and bolted clear to win by 4½ lengths, a performance putting her in at a general 11/2 and 6/1 shot though she is not certain to take her place at Epsom.
This Saturday sees the Lingfield Oaks Trial take place, though it will take a big performance for the winner of that race to announce themselves as a genuine contender, while next Wednesday York hosts the Musidora Stakes, typically a very strong trial for the big one meaning the picture will change once more.
The Derby market is a little more stagnant than that of the Oaks at the moment, as we wait for serious contenders to come out. Too Darn Hot, Line Of Duty, Anthony Van Dyck, Bangkok, Al Hilalee, Headman, Japan, Sangarius and Surfman are all possible runners among others at this stage in what could be shaping up to be the race of the year so far.
Lingfield host their Derby Trial on Saturday too while Sunday sees the usually very strong Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial take place at Leopardstown.
Despite his injury, Too Darn Hot as remained at the top of the market but having been a long-term 5/2 shot, he is now around 4/1 after the performance of Sir Dragonet in the Chester Vase, but while his 8-length win from stablemate Norway was indeed impressive he would need to be supplemented into the Derby and it’s not as though connections at Coolmore don’t have other options.
Whatever happens between now and York’s Dante meeting, much will change right up to the final declarations on Epsom’s classic weekend as the supposition and rumour swirls regarding this year’s crop of three-year-olds.