Friday is the opening day of the two-day Cazoo Derby Festival at Epsom, England, with two Group 1 races highlighting the racecard.
The day’s feature is the £395,000 Cazoo Oaks over a mile and a half for three year old fillies, with fourteen runners declared for the second fillies Classic of the season in Britain. Among the 14 confirmations are 5 Irish-trained participants, all trained at Ballydoyle, County Tipperary, Ireland, by Aidan O’Brien.
The race favourite is Santa Barbara, a daughter of Camelot out of a Danehill mare, Senta’s Dream. A winner of her only race last season, she was a warm order favourite for the Group 1 QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, England, at the beginning of May, where the inexperienced filly finished a close fourth to her winning stable companion Mother Earth.
According to her handler:
“It was a big risk going to the 1000 Guineas on only her second run, but she ran very well. This was always pencilled in to be her next run.”
One filly who has been well wagered on over the last week is the daughter of Deep Impact and Best In the World (by Galileo), Snowfall, who was a winner of the Group 3 Musidora Stakes at York, England, on her 2021 season opener. When speaking to the media earlier this week, Aidan O’Brien admitted to having expected a lot from the filly during her juvenile season in 2020:
“We always thought the world of Snowfall last year, but we could never get her to produce what she was doing at home,” he admitted. “Maybe a little bit of time over the winter, maybe she matured from two to three and a little bit extra distance has helped her. Physically she has done well since and mentally she is lovely, so it is very possible that she could really take off.”
The primary English-trained challenge is likely to come from the third and fourth favourites in the betting market, the Roger Varian-handled pair Zeyaadah and Teona respectively. The former was runner-up to Dubai Fountain in the Cheshire Oaks, and will be ridden on Thursday by Jim Crowley, while Teona, the mount of Irish jockey David Egan, finished third in the Musidora Stakes at York, behind Snowfall.
Divinely, La Joconde and Willow are the other three fillies who will carry the silks of the Coolmore partners in the Cazoo Oaks. Divinely is a daughter of champion sire Galileo and was a Group 3-winning juvenile. The daughter of Red Evie was fourth on her seasonal reappearance in the Listed Lingfield Oaks Trial in England last month.
La Jaconde, still a maiden after six races, is by the Juddmonte Farms’ stallion Frankel. She ran well this season in the Chester Oaks and according to her conditioner, Aidan O’Brien, “we think she is a good bit better than that. We think there is more to come from her.”
Willow is the final Ballydoyle representative and the five times raced daughter of American Pharoah is a maiden winner and has been placed in a Group 3 race in Ireland.
The Coral Coronation Cup
The William Haggis-trained Al Aasy is the bookmakers’ choice for the second Group 1 on the racecard on Cazoo Oaks Day, the seven-runner £300,000 Coral Coronation Cup over a mile and a half. The son of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sea The Stars is unbeaten this season, with the four year old having won twice at Newbury, England.
The Shadwell Estate Company Limited-owned colt took the Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes on 18 April before following up with success in the Group 3 Al Rayyan Stakes on 15 May.
Al Aasy’s main challenge is likely to come from the full brothers Japan and Mogul, both handled by Aidan O’Brien. The five year old Japan was third in the Epsom Derby in 2019 and won the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York. Despite completing a winless season in 2020, Japan began his 2021 campaign with victory in the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes at Chester. In the view of his trainer:
“Japan is very well. We were delighted with his run (in the Ormonde Stakes).”
Meanwhile Japan’s four year old brother Mogul, winner of the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris and the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase last season, took third place in the Prix Ganay at ParisLongchamp early last month.
On Mogul, O’Brien said: “(He was) third in the Prix Ganay and ran a very good race. We think he is progressing. He is another horse who ran well in the (Epsom) Derby (finishing sixth).”
Past The Wire will carry reports on both the Group 1 races at Epsom Downs on Friday with reaction from the winning connections.
Photo: Courtesy of the Jockey Club/ Epsom Downs Racecourse