Ignore Aidan O’Brien second-strings at your peril at Epsom is a lesson we should all have learned over the past decade, and while Pink Dogwood is fancied for the Oaks, the layers may be underestimating outsider Peach Tree, who ran to a similar level as the favourite over the same track and trip last time, and will improve.
14:00 Investec Woodcote EBF Stakes
The Woodcote has been dominated by a small number of stables over the last thirty years or so, with the Hannon (Sr and Jr), Channon and Johnston yards winning 15 times since 1988 (for betting purposes at least). On the other hand, certain owners and trainers seem to have no regard for the race, with Godolphin, despite a huge representation in the juvenile ranks, rarely having a runner, and when they have, they have enjoyed no success, with last year’s unplaced 3.5 shot True Belief typical of their approach.
It’s usually an advantage to have a couple of runs given the demands of this race, and although there have been 16 once-raced juveniles in this race in the last decade, 11 of which have started at 6.5 or shorter, none have won, and that underlines the importance of experience.
Do I want to back a horse bred to need at least a mile in a race like the Woodcote? No. Do I want to back one making its turf debut at a short price in the Woodcote? Not on your nelly!
Step forward Wolverhampton novice winner Pinatubo, who will find this a hugely different test than the Tapeta at Wolverhampton on which he was successful first time.
He looks a nice prospect, but outstayed rather than outsped his rivals at Dunstall Park, and is not certain to build on that promising facing turf for the first time.
15:10 Investec Coronation Cup
Much has been made of the draw for the Derby, with Willie Carson calling stall one the “coffin box”, and it’s possible this will be overplayed, but the stats, when taken for all races at the Derby course and distance, show that stall 1 & 2 are a serious disadvantage. In 118 races this century with ten or more runners, not a single winner has come from the inside stall when the betting would suggest that 10 ought to have been successful.
When field size is reduced to eight or fewer, the effect of the draw changes, and that’s not a fluke. In big fields, the runners move away from the inside to make a right-handed manoeuvre before climbing to Tattenham corner and turning sharply left.
In small fields, they tend to stay on the inside rail, which gives a small advantage to those drawn low, but where the whole field moves right, as happens most of the time, the low numbers have to race farthest to get into a handy position, or they hang back hoping to pass rivals later.
As with a lot of British tracks, a good track position is often vital in order to deal with a tactically-run race and to avoid being caught in traffic as outsiders drop back. Those drawn very low are worst placed to achieve this, and while it’s wrong to say they can’t win, they are more likely to be poorly positioned than those drawn high, and that has a serious effect on their win prospects.
Having said that, it’s debatable whether the field for the Coronation Cup is big enough to have a negative effect on the chances of Old Persian, but the stalls are in the centre of the track which means the field is unlikely to head to the inside rail, and it’s definitely a small negative. I wouldn’t want to take him on based on that factor alone, but he is priced on the basis that he has improved this year in Dubai, and that always rings an alarm bell for me.
Too many horses have looked world beaters in the desert only to resemble selling platers back on British turf (who remembers Galdiatorus?), and while Old Persian beat Kew Gardens (in receipt of weight) at York last year, he is only one of half a dozen with similar claims on the official figures, so looks a marginal lay at his current odds.
That said, I wouldn’t advocate chasing his price out beyond its current spread.
16:30 Investec Oaks
The draw should make more of a difference in the Oaks, and I wish good luck to backers of Manuela de Vega, but there’s no great angle to take her on at odds which may be close to 20 on the day. I’d rather have a couple of arrows at bigger prices to hit the frame.
Aidan O’Brien is a master at readying a filly for this race and is also a genius when it comes to improving supposedly exposed fillies, and while he’s landed the Oaks with some shorties, he’s also sent out big-priced winners like Was at 21.0 and Qualify at 51.0. In addition, Peeping Fawn and Moonstone hit the bar at 21.0 and 26.0 respectively.
In short, never ignore an O’Brien filly in this race, even at big odds.
Peach Tree finished behind Tarnawa and stablemate Delphinia in the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas last time, but is confidently expected to turn the tables on the latter as that was her first run since October, and she should be much sharper for that. She was beaten less than a length in that Group 3 and is a rank outsider, whereas Pink Dogwood was the winner of a weaker listed race over the same trip at Navan, and is favourite.
There is little between them on form, and whoever finds the most improvement is the likeliest winner of this Oaks, and it may be worth backing Peach Tree to do that, especially with Donnacha O’Brien riding, which indicates she’s considered better than the other O’Brien entries aside from the favourite.
I’ve also backed the twice-raced Lavender’s Blue on the same basis, but it’s Peach Tree’s price which is most out of line at the time of writing.
- 14:00 Lay Pinatubo @ 2.5 or shorter to win 20pts [max liability 20pts]
- 15:10 Lay Old Persian @ 4.5 or shorter to win 8 pts [max liability 28pts]
- 16:30 Back Peach Tree to win @ 40 or bigger for 3pts
- 16:30 Back Peach Tree tom place @ 8.5 or bigger for 7pts
Tom Stanley is joined by Sam Turner, Micheal Deasy and making his Matchbook Podcast debut Declan Rix from attheraces.com to preview the Coronation Cup and the Epsom Oaks.