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Recommended bets: Investec Oaks
Rhododendron tightened her grip on favouritism for the Investec Oaks with a strong-finishing second to stable companion Winter in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas on Saturday, but it’s hard to envisage her going off a great deal shorter than the current 5/2 come the day.
Last year’s Fillies’ Mile winner has always been considered a top middle-distance prospect and there’s no reason to think anything other than a step up in trip will bring about further improvement in the daughter of Galileo.
Winter, relatively new to the Aidan O’Brien team following the dispersement of David Wachman’s horses, is by the same sire but her dam, Laddies Poker Two, was a sprinter so there has to be some doubt about her getting 12 furlongs and Wayne Lordan confirmed that he thought a mile and a quarter might be the limit of her stamina in the immediate aftermath of the Guineas.
There are still plenty of cards to be played with Chester, York, Lingfield and several races in Ireland, including the Blue Wind Stakes at the Curragh, set to act as significant trials, so there is time for something to come and really challenge the marker leader.
Second-favourite Shutter Speed is reportedly bound for the Musidora Stakes at York, while Enable – also representing John Gosden and Khalid Abdullah, runs in the Cheshire Oaks this week against O’Brien’s Alluringly, who is incidentally a bigger price in the Oaks outright market but favourite to beat Enable on Wednesday.
Gracious Diana is another Gosden runner of note having shown vast improvement from her sole start at two to run out a wide-margin winner of a maiden at Newbury last month. Gosden clearly has a very strong hand as he bids to claim a second Oaks victory after Taghrooda provided the Newmarket master with a breakthrough triumph in 2014.
Ralph Beckett has one up on Gosden when it comes to this particular Classic, having sent out Look Here and Talent to take top spot in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
Beckett has developed a real reputation for nurturing three-year-old fillies and such renown was obviously to the fore when CRIMSON ROCK’s owner Sheikh Mohammed Bin Khalifa Al Thani picked Beckett’s Kimpton Down Stables to house his $1,000,000 purchase.
Many wildly expensive fillies with gorgeous pedigrees have come and gone without making much of an impression on the racecourse, but Beckett’s daughter of Fastnet Rock looked the real deal when picking up Elas Ruby to win on debut at Newbury last autumn.
On the bare figures she can’t hold a flame to the likes of Rhododendron, but the Newbury maiden has thrown up a couple of subsequent winners already and the fourth home, Star Rock, who was seven and a half lengths in arrears, has since been beaten just three and a half when second to Gracious Diana, so there’s some substance to go on.
There should also be a serious amount of improvement to come from Crimson Rock, who is a three-parts sister to Peeping Fawn, winner of the Irish Oaks and second to Light Shift here 10 years ago. She’s also a half-sister to Thewayyouare, a Group One winner in France, while the dam Maryinsky is closely related to Smolensk, who is out of a Kentucky Oaks winner.
So in terms of pedigree, Beckett’s horse is right up there with any Ballydoyle blue blood, while we know her trainer is adept at preparing fillies for this particular test.
Look Here and Talent were both lightly-raced in their two-year-old seasons before catching fire at three and the waves that Crimson Rock made first time out left the distinct impression she could be on a similar trajectory providing she’s trained on, something confirmed by Fran Berry in his first column of the season on these pages.
Look Here ran in the Lingfield Oaks Trial (finishing second) so it’s interesting that Beckett has entered Camerone and Rich Legacy this weekend, presumably in a bid to test the water and see where he stands in the division before unleashing the number one hope.
It’s still unclear at the time of writing where Crimson Rock is going to prep for the Oaks but a trip to York next week looks possible and a positive showing on the Knavesmire would certainly bring her into the picture. If she managed to upset Shutter Speed then we could be looking at the new second-favourite.
At 20/1 (General) it looks worth chancing that Beckett can work his magic once more and get his prized asset to the ball looking a million dollars.
Posted at 1955 BST on 08/05/17.