Classic form collides at York on Thursday as Irish and French Oaks winners Sea Of Class and Laurens do battle in the Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks at the Ebor Festival.
This is a clash of the generations as those two three-year-olds, and Royal Ascot winner Magic Wand, race outside their age group for the first time in their short careers. It will be the first time they face older fillies, and amongst those mature rivals is King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes third Coronet.
What is the Yorkshire Oaks?
The Yorkshire Oaks is a Group 1 for fillies and mares that forms part of the British Champions Series. It’s run over 1m4f at York and has a prize fund of £350,000.
How will the race be run?
Aidan O’Brien-trained duo Bye Bye Baby and Flattering can both set the pace, having done so at Epsom in the Oaks in June. The latter stepped up first in that Group 1 Classic, with Bye Bye Baby taking up the running after two furlongs, and going on to finish 3rd to stablemate Forever Together.
Bye Bye Baby also set the pace in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh and again in the Darley Irish Oaks, which was won by the Yorkshire Oaks favourite Sea Of Class. But there is no shortage of pace here, as Magic Wand and Laurens will also be handy.
Sea Of Class is expected to be ridden more prominently than usual, with Coronet, Horseplay and Eziyra set to try to come from behind up the Knavesmire straight.
The Yorkshire Oaks betting is dominated by two previous Oaks winners in French Oaks heroine Laurens and the Darley Irish Oaks star Sea Of Class. The latter is the favourite at no bigger than 11/8 with Black Type, having won her last three starts, including beating the Epsom Oaks winner Forever Together.
Laurens though has won three Group 1s, and might well be a dual Classic winner had she not been done for speed by Billesdon Brook late on in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Trainer Karl Burke’s question is: will she stay 1m4f?
She has won with each step up in trip, beginning at 7f and progressing to that 1m2.5f victory in the French Oaks at Chantilly last time out, but is trying 1m4f for the first time in the Yorkshire Oaks. Jockey PJ McDonald has said he would be “shocked” if she did not stay, based on her performance in France, making the 4/1 available with Black Type look highly enticing.
Is There a Trends Winner?
In the past 10 renewals, only one horse has won from a stall numbered lower than four, and she was the mega star Enable, last year. In recent years, stalls six or higher have been favoured, 2016 2/1f Found being beaten from stall one, 2015 15/8f Covert Love beaten from stall two, and 2012 7/4f The Fugue been from stall two.
Horseplay, Flattering, and Bye Bye Baby and in the danger zone, drawn lower than stall four, with the fancied Coronet taking that berth. That could be a negative for the four-year-old.
The key piece of form is that of the Epsom Oaks. When an Epsom Oaks winner runs in this race, they tend to win, and when they don’t turn up, whatever Epsom Oaks runner that does, tends to win. Flattering and Magic Wand are the only two runners in the field, who also took part in the Epsom Oaks, but Flattering has already been ruled out by her draw.
But Who Will Actually Win?
Sea Of Class undoubtedly has a big future, and Laurens is a proven performer at this level, flying the flag for less-heralded connections in jockey PJ McDonald and trainer Karl Burke. It is very hard to look past them, but on the fast ground Laurens may be tapped for toe again, as she was at Newmarket over 7f.
If you take 11/8 about Sea Of Class, you probably won’t regret it, but it’s worth giving Magic Wand a chance. Trainer Aidan O’Brien said she wasn’t well after her massively disappointing Irish Oaks run, she wasn’t in love with the soft ground in the Epsom Oaks or on her reappearance, and she has won everything else she has been aimed at.
Everything is in Magic Wand’s favour at York, and it is the past luckless outings that make her as big as 7/1 to win the Yorkshire Oaks (BetVictor), not her ability. Remember she beat the Epsom Oaks runner-up at Royal Ascot, and that filly, Wild Illusion, just won the Group 1 Nassau Stakes.