The waiting is nearly over for this year’s edition of the Epsom Oaks. Master trainer Aidan O’Brien has another strong hand with Rhododendron spearheading his assault on a renewal hat-trick following the successes of Qualify and Minding.
However, while his star filly is now odds-on to deliver, the Ballydoyle yard face some stiff competition from elsewhere.
Following the declarations here’s our look through the 10 still standing their ground…
Rhododendron – 10/11
O’Brien has swept all before him in the Classics this season and his 1000 Guineas runner-up has been heavily backed to continue that trend.
Although she was beaten by stablemate and dual-Guineas heroine Winter at Newmarket, many observers feel she lost little in defeat.
This daughter of Galileo is by no means bulletproof, having been denied in three of her previous six starts under Rules.
However, she’s widely expected to thrive on Epsom’s 1m4f trip and deliver another big prize to her all-conquering handler.
Enable – 11/2
Trainer John Gosden has reported Enable to be in rude health and while rated 9lb lower than the jolly, she’s deemed next best in the betting.
She was extremely eye-catching when lowering the colours of O’Brien hotpot Alluringly in the Cheshire Oaks and her stamina appears in little doubt.
And if showing the same attitude under three-time Oaks winner Frankie Dettori she’ll be more than capable of delivering another upset.
Sobetsu – 8/1
Godolphin’s Sobetsu belied odds of 14/1 to score by three lengths in May’s Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary and as such she’s bound to attract plenty of each-way interest.
The Charlie Applelby-trained filly looks likely to take in the French equivalent of the Oaks on June 18 but in the meantime her handler appears happy enough to take his chance in both races.
While the going remains ‘Good’ the daughter of Dubawi is a lively outsider although her yard have hinted that they wouldn’t want the ground to get too firm ahead of Friday’s contest.
Natavia – 9/1
The ground could be key for Natavia too, with her impressive victory in a Listed contest at Newbury last time out coming on soft.
Connections have hinted as much but while there’s a chance of some cut in the ground we should see this relatively unexposed daughter of Nathaniel take her place in the line-up.
Unraced as a two-year-old, she was second on good to firm on debut at HQ, before duly obliging in Berkshire.
Coronet – 10/1
John Gosden’s second string Coronet ran on well to snatch third in the Prix Saint-Alary behind Sobetsu but she’ll need to find even more to take the spoils here.
Her trainer has said she’s crying out for the step up in trip and having already performed well over 1m2f it’ll be interesting to see how she copes with another quarter of a mile.
Andrea Atzeni is in decent form and the Italian is booked for the ride. We’re not going to completely write her off but ultimately we feel she’s playing for place money.
Horseplay – 12/1
Andrew Balding won the Oaks in his first season as a trainer with Casual Look in 2003, his only runner in the race to date.
And the stars could be aligning for another Classic victory following the Pretty Polly Stakes win secured by Horseplay.
Ouija Board (2004), Talent (2013) and Taghrooda (2014) each won the Newmarket contest prior to taking the spoils at Epsom.
And while it looks unlikely, it’s not inconceivable to think that Balding’s entrant can strike at the top level.
Alluringly – 18/1
Having got off the mark at the third time of asking, Alluringly went off an even-money shot for the Cheshire Oaks.
However, she found one too good in Enable and it’s somewhat tricky to decipher how she’ll perform on arguably the biggest stage of them all.
Granted, O’Brien’s 50/1 shot Qualify also had a relatively uninspiring past heading into her famous Oaks success two years ago but she did at least have plenty of experience in the bank.
Make no mistake, there will be plenty of puzzled looks should Seamie Heffernan guide this filly into the winner’s enclosure.
Daddys Lil Darling – 25/1
Kentucky Oaks and Ashland Stakes runner-up Daddys Lil Darling has come a long way for her tilt at British Classic success.
And even with the talented Olivier Peslier on board it’s difficult to envisage how she can successfully negotiate the unique challenge of a Turf Classic at Epsom.
Her only previous start on the surface yielded a sixth-place finish although admittedly that was her first run of 2017.
She likes to come on strong at the business end of races and that makes things more interesting. But it’ll take something pretty spectacular to get in front of these rivals.
Isabel De Urbina – 28/1
Runner-up behind Horseplay last time out, Isabel De Urbina will bid to follow in the footsteps of Talent and Look Here for trainer Ralph Beckett.
It looks a tall order for this lightly-raced contender, winner of a Class 5 contest at Ffos Las on debut in 2016.
She was only three-quarters of a length behind her re-opposing rival at Newmarket though and Beckett, in his own words, is prepared to ‘roll the dice’ and take a shot at glory with this ‘well-balanced filly’.
Pocketfullofdreams – 66/1
The last name on our list and to label Pocketfullofdreams a rank outsider is perhaps being too generous.
Since switching from David Wachman’s yard this daughter of Invincible Spirit hasn’t found much more luck under AOB and we can’t see her springing the mother of all upsets.
She was game enough when finishing second at Lingfield last time out but the winner of that contest hardly sets the sort of standard required here.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing