Epsom Oaks PreviewThe 2012 Oaks Stakes takes place on Friday June 1st and there are currently fourteen fillies set to go to post in the third Classic of the season. Aidan O’Brien’s Maybe is the favourite, but will she be able to build on her third place in the 1000 Guineas, or will another filly etch her name into the history books? We quite like the look of a 10/1 shot with Coral

Race History

The Oaks Stakes, also known as the Epsom Oaks, has been contested since 1779. The race is named after an estate situated close to Epsom, that was owned by the 12th Earl of Derby, after whom the Derby Stakes was named.

Taking place over 1m 4f 10y, the Oaks is for three year old fillies only and is the middle leg of the Fillies’ Triple Crown (1000 Guineas, Oaks, St Leger).

Key Trends

So which of the fourteen fillies currently entered into the 2012 Epsom Oaks is going to bring home the bacon for their connections? In an attempt to answer that question, let’s take a look at some key trends to emerge from analysis of recent Oaks winning fillies, and apply them to the 2012 field.

Breeding

  • All of the last ten winners of the Epsom Oaks were sired by a horse with a stamina index of 7.8f or greater
  • All of the last ten Oaks winners were born in February, March or April

Stamina is important over the testing mile and a half Oaks trip, so a sire with a high stamina index is a useful asset. Nine of the last ten winners were sired by a horse with a stamina index of 8.2f or greater, and the lowest rating in that same period was 7.8f.

Furthermore, the slightly older horses tend to outperform their immature rivals, as evidenced by the trend for Oaks winners to have been born before the start of May.

Recent Form

  • All 10 of the last 10 Oaks winners had run in either one or two races during the season, before their Epsom success
  • All 10 of the last 10 winners had contested an Oaks preparation race no more than 35 days prior to the Classic
  • 13 of the last 15 Oaks Stakes winners had finished either 1st or 2nd last time out

When attempting to find the winner of the Epsom Oaks, we need to be looking for a race sharp horse (all of the last ten Oaks winners had taken part in a preparation race no longer than 35 days before the fillies classic) but we should avoid those that have run in too many races, as they may have peaked too soon (all of the last ten Oaks winners had raced either once or twice that season, before heading to Epsom).

Ten of the past fifteen Oaks winners had finished first in their final prep race before Epsom, with a further three finishing second. The two exceptions had run in competitive Guineas races. This trend reinforces the fact that we should be looking at race sharp, in form horses for the 2012 Oaks winner.

Past Form

  • None of the last 10 Oaks winners had taken part in more than six career races
  • All of the last 10 Oaks winners had contested a minimum of two career races
  • All of the last 10 winners had travelled to Epsom having won over a mile or further, on at least one occasion

As we touched on earlier, stamina is crucial to a potential Oaks winning filly, so we need to rule out anything that has failed to win a race over at least a mile.

The trends also suggest that we should avoid heavily campaigned types, as Oaks winners tend to be more lightly raced (no winners in the past ten years have contested more than six career races prior to Epsom). However, inexperience can be costly too, and the trends suggest that the filly needs to have run in at least two races.

Summary

By applying all of the above trends to the 2012 Oaks Stakes field, we are only able to reduce it by half. Although we have removed the favourite – Aidan O’Brien’s Maybe, who has never won over further than seven furlongs – the next seven in the betting all remain. Trends analysis alone can’t always provide us with winners.

So let’s take a quick look at the seven remaining entrants, in what looks set to be a competitive renewal of the Oaks Stakes:

Shirocco Star finished second in the Fillies’ Trial Stakes at Newbury, by a short head. In last year’s race, Dancing Rain also finished second and she went on to win at Epsom, while back in 2005, Eswarah won both races. A best price of 21.00 (Paddy Power) could be too big, but I’d prefer her to have won more than one of her three career starts.

An easy winner of the Musidora Stakes, an Oaks trial that has produced one winner and two places in the past ten years, The Fugue is the representative of the formidable John Gosden / William Buick partnership. It’s tough to say exactly what she beat in the Musidora and she finished fourth (behind Maybe) in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, so the best price of 4.00 (generally available) looks too short.

Trained by last year’s Oaks winning trainer William Haggas, Vow comes to Epsom having won the Lingfield Oaks trial, beating Colima into second place. She is the only one of these fillies to have already racked up a win over the Oaks trip (in the aforementioned race) and will be partnered by the excellent Johnny Murtagh (who also partnered Dancing Rain to success in the Oaks last year). However, no winner of the Lingfield Oaks trial has followed up at Epsom in the last decade.

Ralph Beckett’s Colima finished second in the Lingfield Oaks trial and can be backed for Oaks success at a best price of 16.00 (SportingBet). I would expect Vow to confirm that form at Epsom, and the filly has only one behind her when looking at the Official ratings of the seven that remain after the trends analysis.

Coquet won the Height Of Fashion Stakes, a recognised Oaks trial, by a neck last week. I would doubt whether she has the required class to win the 2012 Oaks Stakes though, especially when you consider that she began her career on the all weather. She is the lowest rated filly of the seven and is widely available to back at a best price of 26.00.

Kailani is beautifully bred, by Monsun (Group One winner over 1m 4f) and out of 2002 Oaks Stakes winner Kazzia. She won the 1m 2f Pretty Polly Stakes comfortably and trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni has gone on record saying that he expects the step up to 1m 4f to suit her. However, he also stated, “we cannot say 100% whether she will handle good to firm until we run her on it. It’s the same with her handling the course”. It’s for that reason that she is a best price of 11.00 (Coral), which could prove to be excellent value.

Kissed is another well bred sort, by Galileo and a half sister to Pour Moi. A best price of 7.50 (BetVictor), she isn’t Aidan O’Brien’s first string filly in the 2012 Oaks, but then Homecoming Queen wasn’t first choice when landing the 1000 Guineas either. Both of her career victories have come on soft or worse ground, which might be a slight cause for concern.

Advice

The 2012 Oaks Stakes looks a very tough race to call and I will tentatively put up the Godolphin filly Kailani. I think she’s fantastically bred and at the prices, I think she offers a nice balance between risk and reward.

The Epsom Oaks
Friday 1st June 2012, 16:05

Kailani @ 11.00 (Coral)