My high opinion of this filly is well-known and I was gutted that she got beaten in the Irish 1,000 Guineas. But it was a late decision to run in the race after Ballydoyle was found to be off-colour and the fact that she banged her head coming out of the stalls didn't help. However, ultimately, I think that she just found the ground too soft for her against a filly who relished the conditions, and the pair did pull 10 lengths clear of the third. So, yes, you could say that she hasn't had an ideal preparation for this race and that she would want better ground, though it can dry out very quickly here. And she obviously has her stamina to prove. But I think she will stay ok, and you have to look at the opposition when making those kind of assessments.
In my opinion she will stay well enough in this company, as I think the formbook tells you that she goes into the race as much the best filly and, to be honest, I am struggling to see one that I am afraid of. But, clearly, horses can step forward massively in this race, as we saw with Qualify last season and with others in recent years, too, so it would be unwise to be over-confident, especially in a small field where tactics may be important.
Ryan Moore rides Minding on Friday.
Because Seventh Heaven didn't handle the track when beating Architecture at Lingfield, it has been suggested that she won't handle Epsom. I don't buy that argument myself. Lingfield was hard and rough and had holes in it - I walked the track beforehand - and I think we can rest assured that Epsom will present a better surface. Seventh Heaven is a nice big, scopey filly with improvement in her, but soft ground could be a worry for her, and I don't think Architecture is a guaranteed stayer. Aidan's other filly, Somehow, was very green at Chester and would have learned a great deal that day, but the bare form of that race - where Diamonds Pour Moi finished third - does leave her with an awful lot to find with Minding, and the likes of Turret Rocks.
Turret Rocks is the main form danger to me on her Boussac second and she ran well enough when sixth to Minding in the Guineas, but she has always been thought of as a good or fast ground filly so that would have to be a concern. I think Skiffle won a modest race at Goodwood and could find this coming all a bit too quick for her, but against that she is clearly progressing and she looks more of a stayer than some. If you think that my filly won't stay on pedigree, then I'm not sure how you can have a daughter of Canford Cliffs winning this, so Harlequeen has to be a stamina doubt for me. But she ran well despite pulling hard throughout in the Musidora, where she finished in front of Australian Queen, and she has soft-ground form.
Epsom Oaks expert preview
Aidan O’Brien currently holds the key to the 2016 Investec Oaks and Richard has expert tips for Friday's highlight.
In Minding, he trains the hot favourite (current best price of evens). The 1000 Guineas winner was so impressive at Newmarket that she was being touted as a surprise Derby runner, so it is no surprise to see that she is a short price against her own sex here. Since that devastating win she has met with a narrow defeat at the hands of soft ground specialist Jet Setting in the Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh, which has tempered some of the hype which surrounded her.
Her price was largely unaffected despite the defeat, and there doesn’t look to be too much value in it, given that she is unproven beyond a mile, and she had quite a hard race that day on testing ground in the Curragh. Those types of defeats can leave a mark on a filly, and I would be willing to oppose her on that basis.
Minding finishes second in the Irish 1000 Guineas
The problems begin when trying to separate the wheat from the chaff amongst the remainder of the field. Basically all of the field have some negative which can be levelled against them. Second favourite Even Song had a promising run when third in a listed race at Newmarket, but she was beaten quite a long way, and neither of the two fillies in front of her were thought worthy of an entry here, so she has plenty to find on bare form.
Turret Rocks hails from the Jim Bolger yard, and he rarely sends runners over for a day out when it comes to Epsom. That said, she weakened dramatically in the closing stages of the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, and has over six lengths to find with Minding on that form. Bolger admitted in the aftermath that the filly was short of work, and big improvement can be expected. She is another that has stamina to prove however, and her racing style would lead me to have some doubts on that score.
Charlie Appleby has supplemented Skiffle for the race at a cost of £30,000, so connections are clearly happy with her progression this season. She won snugly at Goodwood last time, but beating a previous Nottingham handicap winner (off 74) in a listed race by a length requires plenty of improvement to win an Oaks.
Seventh Heaven (another O’Brien runner) narrowly defeated Architecture in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, but that was a steadily run race, and the form may not work out as expected.
The one I like at the prices is SOMEHOW
). Trained by Aidan O’ Brien (again!), she overcame greenness to win readily at Chester in May, and I thought she showed a willing attitude and a decent turn of foot to win from the position she found herself in rounding the home turn. Chester is an undulating turning track, which appeared to catch her out in the early parts of the race, but assuming she has learned from that experience, she could show the necessary improvement here. Her win there barely caused a ripple in her Oaks price (20/1 into 16/1), but support in recent weeks is encouraging, and I think there is still some mileage in her price. In a trappy race, she is put forward as a value each way selection against Minding.
Selection - SOMEHOW
Epsom Oaks - Timeform Runner-by-runner guide
By Zoffany and a half-sister to useful 6f-1m winner Norbanus. Confirmed her debut promise when beating 16 rivals in a Nottingham maiden last October. 11/4 and green, best effort when neck second of five to Seventh Heaven in the listed Oaks Trial at Lingfield (11.5f) on her return four weeks ago, edged out late on but clear of the remainder. Certainly worth her chance in what could be an open Oaks, but not bred to improve again for this trip.
By Fastnet Rock out of 1m-1½m winner Barshiba, making her a half-sister to smart winner up to 10.4f Arabian Queen. Landed short odds in 1m Lingfield maiden in February on third start (made debut last November). Well held in listed event on turf debut at Newmarket after short break in May, but seemed
to excel herself when eight and three-quarter lengths fifth of seven to So Mi Dar in Group 3 Musidora Stakes at York 10 days later. Much more needed.
Diamonds Pour Moi
Made a winning start to her career at Kempton last November and much improved when a length third of eight to Somehow in the listed Cheshire Oaks (11.4f) on her reappearance a month ago, sticking to her task after being caught out as the sprint began. Plenty to find on form, but yard won this with outsiders in both 2008 and 2013 (also saddled runner-up), so could outrun long odds.
Made a stylish winning debut in a soft-ground 1m Goodwood maiden last September and has improved on both her starts this year, second to colt Linguistic in sales race at Newmarket in April and four and a quarter lengths fourth of seven to So Mi Dar in Musidora Stakes at York in May. Sound place claims on form, but probably not open to the same amount of improvement as many of these and her tendency to race keenly is also a concern going up in trip.
By Galileo out of very smart winner up to 1m Lillie Langtry, making her a sister to useful 1m winner Kissed By Angels. Was the leading two-year-old filly in Europe in 2015, signing off with an impressive win in the Fillies' Mile at Newmarket, and proved in similar form when winning 1000 Guineas there on her reappearance in early-May by three and a half lengths from Ballydoyle (1-2-3 for Aidan O'Brien). Lost little in defeat when a head second of 10 to Jet Setting in Irish version at the Curragh since and very much the one to beat on form here, but a hard race on soft ground there is hardly an ideal prep for stepping up to 1½m in this race just 12 days later, especially considering her stamina isn't fully guaranteed for the trip.
By Galileo out of US Grade 3 6f winner La Traviata, meaning she's a half-sister to smart 6f winners Cristoforo Colombo and Crusade. Has clearly inherited plenty of stamina from her sire as, having won a 1m maiden at Dundalk on her return in April (her third start), she overcame greenness to follow up in the five-runner listed Oaks Trial at Lingfield (11.5f) in May by a neck from Architecture. Extra ½f here will suit and she's open to further improvement, so warrants respect, for all yard has shorter-priced contenders.
By Dubawi out of useful 1½m winner Princesse Dansante, and a half-sister to smart winner up to 1m Golden Town. Completely blew the start but made up impressive ground in straight when third in an Ascot maiden on her debut and duly improved plenty when winning the nine-runner listed Height of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood (almost 1¼m) 13 days later in May by a length from The Black Princess, finding plenty. Easy to see why she's been supplemented for this race at a cost of £30,000 and one for the shortlist with the step up to 1½m likely to bring about further improvement.
By Fastnet Rock out of the smart winner up to 1½m Alexandrova. Built on her promising debut last autumn when seeing off a subsequent winner at Leopardstown on her return in April. Improved again and overcame run of race when following up in eight-runner listed Cheshire Oaks since by half a length from Moorside. Unlikely to get away with getting so far out of her ground in this grade, but she's the type to do much better, so is another from her stable who merits respect.
By Fastnet Rock out of a mare who stayed 1½m, and is a half-sister to useful winner up to 1¼m Beyond Thankful. Hood taken off when winning May Hill Stakes last September and even better form when second to Ballydoyle in Prix Marcel Boussac the following month. Shaped as if needing run when six and a half kengths sixth of 16 to Minding in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on her return and was then a non-runner from the Irish equivalent. Not very big, but is well enough put together to think she'll train on and she'll stay at least 1¼m, so should run well.
Timeform Oaks 1-2-3
3. Turret Rocks
Timeform Analyst's Verdict
It's easy to see why connections have decided to supplement SKIFFLE after her impressive win in the listed Height of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood 2 weeks ago and she's taken to upset the red-hot favourite Minding, who has easily the best form but is running in her third Classic in just over a month, and her stamina is not guaranteed, either. Turret Rocks is also expected to go well now up in trip.