First Foal Out Of Daddys Lil Darling, Savethelastdance Among Top Choices For Epsom Oaks - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

First Foal Out Of Daddys Lil Darling, Savethelastdance Among Top Choices For Epsom Oaks

Friday's Classic, the Epsom Oaks, which is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, has gone to either Aidan O'Brien or John Gosden every year since 2014, and last year's winner Tuesday was O'Brien's tenth in the race since 1998. Underlining the grip the two stables have on the race, Tuesday held on by just a short head from the Gosden filly Emily Upjohn, with Nashwa, also from the Gosden stable at which son Thady now shares the licence, in third.

The betting for this year's race points to a similar scenario, with O'Brien's 22-length Cheshire Oaks winner Savethelastdance a hot favorite ahead of the Gosdens' impressive Musidora winner Soul Sister and her stable-mate the Pretty Polly winner Running Lion.

Aidan O'Brien is invariably strongly represented in the Oaks, and Savethelastdance looks a worthy favorite after beating a much shorter-priced stable-mate in a decent maiden at Leopardstown before running away with the Cheshire Oaks, a race most recently used as a springboard to Epsom success by Light Shift in 2007 and Enable in 2017.

Savethelastdance won with ridiculous ease, and while the opposition was by no means strong and the margin of her superiority was almost certainly exaggerated by testing conditions, her dam's American pedigree suggests she ought to be every bit as effective on better ground at Epsom. The Galileo filly is the first foal out of Grade 1 winner Daddys Lil Darling.

Daddys Lil Darling, trained by Ken McPeek in the United States, is a daughter of Scat Daddy who won the G1 American Oaks on turf, finished second in the G1 Kentucky Oaks and the G1 Ashland, both on dirt, and retired with earnings of $1,335,305 for owner/breeder Normandy Farm. Upon her retirement, Daddys Lil Darling was sold at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed Sale, bringing a final bid of $3.5 million from Coolmore's M. V. Magnier.

The O'Brien stable will also be represented by Lingfield Oaks Trial runner-up Be Happy and rank outsider Red Riding Hood.

Meanwhile, David Menuisier will have his first Classic runner when the unexposed Longchamp maiden winner Heartache Tonight bids to break the recent O'Brien and Gosden stranglehold on the Betfred Oaks.

In another first, the filly, who is a half-sister to Menuisier's brilliant QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares winner Wonderful Tonight, will be ridden by internationally renowned Italian rider Cristian Demuro, who has yet to ride at Epsom.

Menuisier does not underestimate the task faced by Heartache Tonight, but he believes she is ahead of Wonderful Tonight at a similar stage, and he has little doubt that she will handle the occasion and also improve for the step up in distance.

He said: “They are similar in a lot of ways, but Heartache Tonight is a lot easier to handle as you can do whatever you like with her. She would walk through a brick wall without blinking if you asked her, and I think that's a really good trait going to Epsom. I'd be amazed if she was phased by the occasion.

“At this stage Wonderful Tonight would never have been able to run fourth in a ten-furlong Group 1, as Heartache Tonight did in the Prix Saint-Alary last time. This filly has much more speed than Wonderful Tonight, but she ran like a proper mile-and-four filly in the Saint-Alary, where she was coming back at the finish, so I'm sure she will improve for the step up in trip in the Oaks.”

Menuisier trains Heartache Tonight for her half-sister's owner Chris Wright and Andy MacDonald, who is also in the music industry. He had to think for a moment or two when asked about his own Classic experience, but confirmed Heartache Tonight would be his first runner.

He said: “I would have had one in the Derby last year but he chipped his fetlock the week before, and I might have had a runner in the St Leger but the owner took the horse away too soon!”

Demuro has won multiple Classics in France as well as an Arc with his Prix Du Jockey Club winner Sottsass, but he is seldom seen in Britain. Menuisier is not too worried about his lack of Epsom experience, as he believes it matters much less so long as Heartache Tonight is travelling. However, a first taste of Tattenham Corner on Land Lover in the opening Woodcote Stakes will be no bad thing.

Two of John Gosden's three Oaks winners were already winners over close to the Oaks trip, but both Frankie Dettori's mount Soul Sister, who put a poor reappearance on heavy ground behind her with a spectacular success at York, and Oisin Murphy's ride Running Lion have their stamina to prove.

Gosden said at a gallops morning last week: “The fillies won their trials with authority – a Listed and a Group 3 – and they very much belong in the race. Both fillies have a lot of speed, and stamina wise you never really know till you go the mile and a half.

“They are both really bred to be mile-and-a-quarter fillies and the last bit you just don't know, but you can't practise it at home.”

Dettori, also at the gallops morning, said: “John kept on believing in Soul Sister. When she ran at Newbury the ground was heavy and John's horses weren't running well at the time, but she took me by surprise at York. She travelled, she quickened twice, and she clocked a very good time. I was impressed. She has to go an extra two furlongs but all the signs are good.”

Running Lion would be a first Classic winner for the late Roaring Lion, on whom Murphy won four Group 1s in 2018. The filly has come via the Pretty Polly route which worked so well with the stable's Taghrooda in 2014, but she is less certain to stay.

Murphy said: “We were obviously delighted with her at Newmarket, and she came out of the race well.

“It's lovely to have a really nice horse to ride, but I don't know if she'll stay. No one knows. She might just find the last two furlongs too far but it would be nice to find out in the Oaks, and if I was still on the bridle approaching the three, like I was on her sire, that would be great.

“She's so chilled out, and that's a great characteristic which Roaring Lion certainly had. He improved from race to race as a three-year-old, and I hope that she can progress with racing too.”

The Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Eternal Hope, supplemented by Godolphin at the weekend, is the only runner outside the O'Brien and Gosden runners currently trading at shorter than 25-1.

Charlie Appleby, seeking a first win in the Oaks, said: “She bought her own ticket to the race by winning the Lingfield Oaks Trial. She travelled very well at Lingfield and finished off her race strongly. She put herself into the Oaks picture as a strong contender with that performance.

“She started her career in a Wolverhampton novice in February and all she has done is improve. Physically, she's got better all the time. Lingfield is seen as a test for Epsom, which shouldn't pose any problem for her.”

The QIPCO 1000 Guineas form is represented by Caernarfon, who finished fourth of 20, albeit beaten more than ten lengths. The filly, who is much improved since winning an Ayr nursery off a mark of only 70, races for first-season trainer Jack Channon, who has made an excellent impression since taking over the licence from his father Mick.

A field of 11 is completed by the Andrew Balding-trained Sea Of Roses, who was fifth in the Musidora, Karl Burke's Bright Diamond, who occupied the same position in the Lingfield Trial, and Richard Hannon's Maman Joon, who finished second in a Newbury maiden on her sole start to date.

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