The stage is set for the third British Classic race of the season as some top class three-year-old fillies are pitted together in the Epsom Oaks. The contest also stands as the middle leg of the Fillies’ Triple Crown, although it’s a hat-trick of races rarely attempted these days.
The history of this superb event dates all the way back to 1779 and it didn’t take too long before it was recognised as one of the leading races for three-year-olds.
Next Race: Friday, 4th June 2021
The next race is scheduled to run on 4th June 2021. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 4th July 2020
- Winner: Love
- SP: 11/10
- Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
- Jockey: Ryan Moore
The British Horseracing Authority took a decision early on during the suspension of racing that they would prioritise the most high profile races when reshaping the flat racing season. Hence, the Oaks was never under any threat but we are in the unique situation where the 2020 edition of the big mile-and-a-half race for three year old fillies is taking place on the same day as the Derby. The strange build up has not affected the quality of the horses in the field though as we have a potentially special renewal of the Oaks ahead of us.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good||1m4f||Group 1||£250,000||8||1/5 1-3|
Epsom Oaks Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Love’s performance in the 1,000 Guineas marked her out as the favourite for the Oaks as soon as she crossed the line at Newmarket. Her position at the head of the market has not changed in the weeks since but will favouritism be a millstone around her neck? Only one favourite has won the Oaks in the last 10 years and that was Minding who was incredibly strong in the betting for a Classic at 10/11. In that time we’ve seen plenty of relatively unfancied horses go in at Epsom with Qualify winning at 50/1 in 2015 and three straight 20/1 winners between 2011 and 2013 (Dancing Rain, Was and Talent).
Aidan O’Brien’s filly does at least have a decent draw in stall five. Those in the lower stalls must run very well to overcome the disadvantage of their draw with just seven of the last 18 winners coming from stalls one to four. Love also ticks the box in terms of incoming form as it is very rare for horses without a top two finish in their most recent run to win the Oaks.
|Love||6/5||116||Aidan O'Brien||Ryan Moore|
|Frankly Darling||7/4||110||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|Ennistymon||7/1||104||Aidan O'Brien||Seamie Heffernan|
Love - 6/5
Aidan O’Brien often needs to get a run in his horses at the start of a season before they are capable of producing their best. That’s what put many punters off lending their support to Love in the 1,000 Guineas, especially as O’Brien himself had admitted that the lead-up to the first fillies’ classic of the season had been a bit stop-start for Love.
However, the entire team at Ballyboyle were sweet about Love’s chances and their faith was repaid in spades with a four and a quarter length win confirming the promise that she had shown as a two year old. That juvenile form included a very good win in the Boyglare Stud Stakes over seven furlongs and then a battling second place in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket which really got people excited about Love’s prospects over longer distances.
Some have knocked the form of the 1,000 Guineas as Quadrilateral and Under The Stars were too keen, Millisle missed the start and the fourth and fifth horses had a lot to find in terms of the ratings. Love could only beat the opposition she had though and did so by the biggest distance of any winner of the race since 2012. Moreover, the 1,000 Guineas was never the main objective for Love this season with O’Brien saying after the race that the Oaks was always likely to suit her better (her two sisters, Fleeting and Peach Tree, both ran in the Oaks).
Winning both the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks is a very tough task and there is no guarantee that Love will be able to kick on from her win at Newmarket. But it is tough to argue against her position right at the top of the market and if she does improve for the step up in trip as is suggested then Love may prove too good for the opposition once again.
Frankly Darling - 7/4
There is no doubt that Frankly Darling is the horse most likely to throw down a serious challenge to Love in the Oaks. John Gosden has had some seriously good fillies over the years and he is happy enough with what he’s seen from this daughter of Frankel to make her his sole entry in the Oaks which has to say a great deal about how good she is.
Frankly Darling’s position as the main challenger to Love came after she followed up a maiden win at Newcastle on the first day that British racing returned with a taking win in the Ribblesdale Stakes. She did race a little too keenly that day at Ascot but Frankie Dettori was able to keep a lid on her over exuberance and ensure that she had enough left in the tank for the closing stages.
The other thing that helped Frankly Darling at Ascot was the slow pace of the race. The bulk of the race didn’t take too much out of her meaning she could finish strongly. Whether she’ll be afforded that luxury in the Oaks remains to be seen but Frankly Darling is certainly worthy of the support that is coming her way in the betting.
Ennistymon - 7/1
Frankly Darling is not the only horse to take out of the Ribblesdale Stakes which was uniquely being used as a trial for the Oaks. The fast finishing Ennistymon was never going to catch the winner but the nature and quality of her performance showed that she is one to watch over the middle distances.
That she was sent off at 11/1 for her Royal Ascot appearance reflected the fact that Ennistymon did not have the solid form to back up her potential. That all changed when she came through the field in the closing straight at Ascot in a run that was good enough for Aidan O’Brien to give her a shot in the Oaks.
Whilst Ennistymon may just lack the class of the two ahead of her in the betting, she will give each way backers a good run for their money at 7/1 as this daughter of Galileo will run strongly right to the line.
Epsom Oaks Winners
|2020||Love||11/10||Aidan O'Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2019||Anapurna||8/1||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|2018||Forever Together||7/1||Aidan O’Brien||Donnacha O’Brien|
|2017||Enable||6/1||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|2016||Minding||10/11||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2015||Qualify||50/1||Aidan O’Brien||Colm O’Donoghue|
|2014||Taghrooda||5/1||John Gosden||Paul Hanagan|
|2013||Talent||20/1||Ralph Beckett||Richard Hughes|
|2012||Was||20/1||Aidan O'Brien||Seamie Heffernan|
|2011||Dancing Rain||20/1||William Haggas||Johnny Murtagh|
About the Epsom Oaks
There are five Classics on the British racing calendar, two of which tend to be the preserve of the colts, two which are open only to fillies and one which regularly sees the two sexes do battle against one another. Of those fillies-only affairs, the oldest, and most prestigious, event takes place at Epsom each year in June.
Held over a trip of 1m4f, this Group 1 event restricted to the three year olds is oft imitated around the world and offers over £520,000 (2019) in total prize money. At least equal to that cash prize is the value in terms of prestige and breeding value bestowed upon the winner. Here we take a closer look at one of the true jewels in British flat racing’s crown.
THE NAME IS EARL
The fact that this race has been with us since way back in 1779 is a good illustration of just how rich the heritage of the sport of horseracing is in Britain. Even that lifespan is not enough to make it the oldest of the Classics – Doncaster’s St. Leger predates it – but it does make it older than the Derby, albeit by just the one year.
The 12th Earl Of Derby, whose title is lent to what is probably still the most famous Classic in the world, did also have a role in the naming of this event; The Oaks being the name of a local estate owned by the Earl. Lord Derby certainly got off to a flier in the race he devised, landing the very first edition of The Oaks with a horse by the name of Bridget.
FASTEST OAKS WINNER
|Love||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore||2020||2:34:06|
Of the Oaks records, this is the one to have been set most recently. Many great fillies have tackled the Oaks course and distance under its current format, but none have travelled from starting stall to finish line quite so fast as Aidan O’Brien’s Love in 2020. The filly, who had already won the 1000 Guineas, tackled the step up in trip with ease, winning by a staggering 9 lengths.
The previous record holder was the John Gosden wonder filly, Enable. The subsequent dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner stopped the clock at a lightning quick 2m34.13s in 2017.
Although the 2020 Oaks was run in July, both Love and Enable set their times on Good ground.
LARGEST OAKS WINNING DISTANCE
|Sun Princess||Dick Hearn||Willie Carson||1983||12 lengths|
The Oaks never fails to attract a field of the most talented middle distance three year old fillies in training, and there often isn’t too much to split the main challengers at the line. That wasn’t the case back in 1983 though when the Dick Hern-trained Sun Princess led her rivals a merry dance to scorch clear by a never equalled 12-lengths.
LONGEST PRICED OAKS WINNER
|Qualify||Aidan O’Brien||Colm O’Donoghue||2015||50/1|
|Jet Ski Lady||Jim Bolger||Christy Roche||1991||50/1|
|Vespa||H. Scott||Jem Chapple||1833||50/1|
Sometimes the market gets it right here, but there have been occasions when it has been way off the mark. Of Aidan O’Brien’s eight successes (as of 2020) in the race, the biggest surprise of all came in 2015 when Qualify came through with a late run to swamp all her rivals at whopping odds of 50/1. That price, which was also returned by Vespa (1833) and Jet Ski Lady (1991) is the biggest ever winning SP in this illustrious event.
SHORTEST PRICED OAKS WINNER
|Pretty Polly||Peter Gilpin||Willie Lane||1904||8/100|
At the other end of the spectrum there have been plenty of bookie-bashing occasions when the most likely winner of the race has been well known to the odds compilers and betting public alike. Having landed the Triple Crown in 1904, the great Pretty Polly quite rightly now has a race named in her honour and is comfortably the shortest priced winner in the history of this race. Having already put on a show in landing the 1000 Guineas, defeat in this race was thought to be out of the question and she duly delivered at odds of just 8/100!
EMPEROR OF TRAINERS RULES EPSOM
The premier fillies’ Classic has been kind to a number of trainers over the years, with the above chart representing just a selection of handlers who have returned to claim the prize time and again. Leading the charge is a man known simply as the “Emperor of Trainers”. Saddling up his runners way back in the early 1800s, Robert Robson racked up a phenomenal record in this race, registering 13 wins in all, beginning with the win of Scotia in 1802 and culminating with the triumph of Wings in 1825. A formidable tally, and one which no one has as yet come close to matching.
Sir Henry Cecil is a man who will likely be most remembered as the trainer of the greatest racehorse of all time, Frankel, but during his career he was also equally noted for his prowess with fillies. It is therefore no surprise to see his name on the top trainers list here. The race was even titled the Sir Henry Cecil Oaks in 2014 in honour of the legendary handler who passed away in 2013.
If there is one current trainer who could potentially challenge Robson’s record then that man is undoubtedly Aidan O’Brien. The master of Ballydoyle is still relatively young and going strong and, likely to have a string of the most beautifully bred fillies at his disposal year after year, it would be a major surprise were he not to add to his current tally of eight before he calls time on his illustrious training career.
BUCKLE THE BEST IN THE SADDLE
Much like the outstanding record for the top trainer in this race, we have to turn back through a fair few pages in the history book to find the all-time leader in the jockey standings. The likes of Lester Piggott (six wins), Frankie Dettori (five wins), Kieren Fallon (four wins) and Willie Carson (four wins) will likely be familiar to many modern racing fans, but all are put in the shade by a rider who plied his trade around 200 years ago.
Beginning with Nike in 1797, and ending with Zinc in 1823, Frank Buckle registered a race-leading nine successes in this race, showing his prowess in the saddle for five different trainers, including Robert Robson, who he successfully teamed up with on three occasions.