The picture above was taken one hundred years ago – it is the start of the 1920 Epsom Oaks. The winner Charlebelle is seen second from left and she was bred and owned by Alan Cunliffe at his stud in Tipperary. Her sire, Charles O’Malley was third to Lemberg in the 1910 Epsom Derby. She was described as a “very delicate” filly and had a black coat with a small white star. As of 2000, Charlebelle was the last black horse to have won a British Classic race.
In 1770, Edward Smith Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby, organized the Oaks and a year later the colts’ equivalent, the Derby, was added, the name famously decided by the flip of a coin between the Earl of Derby and Sir Charles Banbury. The Earl of Derby may have won the toss, but Sir Charles Banbury’s Diomed won the inaugural race. This year history is again being made because for the first time ever, the Investec Oaks and Investec Derby will both take place at Epsom Downs on the same day – Saturday, 4th July.
The last time such momentous happenings occurred, I remember walking up the straight towards the old saddling boxes, moments after the official opening of the new Queens Stand in 1995 with Julian Wilson, who had John McCririck fag for him at Harrow. We were both appalled at the new facilities, in the manner that only racing curmudgeons can ever truly master. The Press Room had been moved, the horse walk was made of rubber so you couldn’t hear an unsound colt, (Wilson’s view not mine), the place was too white and would dazzle the horses, the tea was stewed, the grass was too green – but the absolute bollocking bollocks of the worst bit of it all was that it was the first time the race had been run on a Saturday. Friday was for the Oaks and Saturday was now Derby Day. What happened to Wednesday? What was wrong with Wednesday? Why couldn’t we have an annual holiday? It was the end of racing. it was on a par with The Ravens fleeing The Tower. It’s about 4f from the Queens Stand back door to the old boxes and Julian did not stop ranting throughout our stroll. He had, I think, a point. I knew Benny Taylor who had that ghastly old Borscht and Tears in Beauchamp Place and he used to shut the place on Derby Day and take all the staff racing. I came with the Groucho Club and Jeffrey Bernard once – on a double-decker bus – but he slept the whole way. When we arrived, he went straight to some nob’s box, leaving myself with several gay theatrical men and a very pretty Groucho receptionist. Jeffrey’s departure was a sound choice as memory serves. The buses as some might recall were stationed from about the 2f pole down to Tatts, and without wishing to sound grand, the further away from the Hoi Polloi and the Lucky Heather sellers you are on Derby Day the better your wallet and personal hygiene will be. Talking of pretty girls, (do you see what I did then?)….
The Investec Oaks (Group 1) 2.40 pm, Epsom Downs, Saturday, 4 July 2020. 1m 4f 6y. £250,000 Total Prize Fund.
Racecard Number Name (Breeding) (Owner) Trainer (Form)
- Bharani Star (GER) (Phoenix Thoroughbred Limited) Peter Chapple-Hyam (54-14) – Still a maiden at the end of last year after two runs as a 2yo but broke her duck when dead heating first time up as a 3yo in a Haydock Handicap. Rated 71 and 100/1 she ran an absolute blinder in the Ribblesdale when keeping on well for a 5 length 4th behind Frankly Darling. Upped to a new mark of 99 she should have a bright future but has plenty of improvement to find again to feature here.
- Ennistymon (IRE) (Evie Stockwell) Aidan O’Brien IRE (7-12) – A narrow winner at Leopardstown on her second start, Ennistymon then lined up in the Ribblesdale Stakes. She was no match for the very impressive Frankly Darling, but this daughter of Galileo came second in a very pleasing fashion. Epsom will suit her and we will see more improvement from this entirely plausible Oaks entry.
- Frankly Darling (Anthony Oppenheimer) John Gosden (2-11) – A facile, 5l winner of a Newcastle maiden at the start of last month (on very soft Tapeta), she went to the Ribblesdale Stakes where this Frankel filly made a huge impression. She didn’t help things by becoming warm and racing exuberantly, but it became increasingly obvious that she hadn’t taken much out of herself as she quickened away off what had been a steady gallop. She was probably good for at least 4l rather than the 1½ she took. It was over in a matter of a few strides, and Frankie Dettori wasn’t forced to get too tough in the saddle. Interestingly Gosden was adamant and emphasised he didn’t have anything else for The Oaks.??? Go figure.
- Gold Wand (IRE) (Mohamed Khalid Abdulrahim) Roger Varian (2-1) – She’s had just the two runs so far and neither of them was especially eye-catching. She is a daughter of Golden Horn who Gosden trained to win The Derby and Arc, so maybe he’s seen something the rest of us haven’t.
- Love (IRE) (Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith & Sue Magnier) Aidan O’Brien IRE (1513-1) – She was a 2yo G1 winner, taking the Moyglare and she was third at Newmarket in the Fillies Mile over the Guineas C&D. In the Guineas her draw meant she raced wide, but she settled well and had a smooth run through, with Moore clearly judging the pace just right. She just kept getting stronger the further she went, winning by 4¼l. She is a sister to Group winners over 1m4f-1m6f and that day she looked every inch an Oaks filly and was priced up immediately as the favourite. She is going to be a very tough nut to crack.
- Passion (IRE) (Sue Magnier, Michael Tabor & Derrick Smith) Aidan O’Brien IRE (517-43) – Like a lot of AOB horses she had to have two shots before winning a maiden, and she went on to disappoint in Donny’s May Hill last September. She then got beat at Navan and was a one-paced third to Frankly Darling in the Ribblesdale. However, we already have a 33/1 e/w ticket about her thanks to our Royal Ascot recommendations. A price which the bookies continue to offer in a couple of places. Fools! Waht do they know?
- Queen Daenerys (IRE) (H.H. SH Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa) Roger Varian (216-2) – The words “staying on” seems to appear regularly in her race profile but here’s the thing. She’s had a wind-op which Roger Varian rarely undertakes unless absolutely necessary. In fact, only ten of his horses in the last three years have had that done, which for a yard his size is remarkable. So far she’s debuted at 7f, run twice at 8f and at 10f LTO. She’s screaming out for 12f and now she can breathe properly she looks fantastic value for a long-shot in an 8-runner race.
- Tiempo Vuela (A E Oppenheimer and Sophie) John Gosden (1-7) – I don’t have another Oaks horse, said Gosden. Who is Sophie the owner? Why is this horse here, other than giving us three place value?
Much like the Derby analysis, we look at the trends that cover the last 15 runnings and select those that are most pertinent in today’s delayed seasonal start. We can eliminate five of the eight runners on the following grounds. All of the last fifteen winners had an OR: 94+, had a top3 finish in a Class 1 race, and an RPR of 95+
ENNISTYMON – FRANKLY DARLING – LOVE – PASSION – QUEEN DAENERYS
It’s obviously a two-horse race, and we already have money on Frankly Darling. We could dutch Love, (there’s a joke in there somewhere, but I’m tempted to think about trying to find second and third.
The way my mind is currently working is to suggest Frankly Darling or Love to beat Queen Daenerys or Passion for 4 x 1pt SFC. Then using Love and Frankly Darling as the two bankers in first and second place do them with the three others for 6 x ½ Trifectas
QUEEN DAENERYS e/w