THE 2020 Oaks has only attracted eight runners, but they’re a top-class bunch.
Our man Jack Keene has taken a good look through the field and picked out his big-race fancy.
The market is headed by the runaway 1000 Guineas winner LOVE.
She was hugely impressive at Newmarket when powering clear of the field, with Cloak Of Spirits and Quadrilateral filling the places.
It was a dominant display and Ballydoyle are extremely confident that she will stay the 1m4f Oaks trip. On breeding the extra distance shouldn’t be an issue.
FRANKLY DARLING continued her progress with a comfortable victory in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.
She was given a brilliantly simple ride by Frankie Dettori that day and she never looked in any danger from the bottom of the head straight.
ENNISTYMON is the Aidan O’Brien second string but she ran an eye-catching race when second to Frankly Darling.
She finished her race off well from off the pace and as long as she isn’t too far back she should be in their pitching again.
Roger Varian launches a two-pronged attack with QUEEN DAENERYS and GOLD WAND, and the former looks sure to relish the step up to 1m4f judged on her Pretty Polly second.
There is no out-and-out front runner in here so this could well become tactical.
Aidan O’Brien’s outsider PASSION could be in here to ensure a good gallop, but she isn’t blessed with a ton of natural boot and she may lack the early pace to tow these along.
It wouldn’t be the greatest shock to see Frankie get on with things aboard Frankly Darling if there isn’t any pace on.
And if he is allowed an easy time of things aboard a filly who looks like she will stay all day, that will spell big trouble for the others.
However, a crawl and sprint could well suit Love who possesses a potent turn of foot, particularly on good ground.
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Frankly Darling led home Ennistymon (2nd), Passion (3rd) and Bharani Star (5th) in the Ribblesdale.
Love was in a league of her own in the 1000 Guineas. She is the only runner out of that Classic to run at Epsom.
Queen Daenerys (2nd) shaped as though she would appreciate this trip in the Pretty Polly over 1m2f.
The promising Gold Wand opened her account in pleasing fashion at Newbury last month.
Aidan O’Brien, Love, Ennistymon, Passion
“Everything has gone well with Love. Everyone who rides her has been very happy and the plan has always been to take her for the Guineas and then go to the Oaks.
“We’ve always felt she’d be very comfortable going up in trip, so we’re looking forward to it.
“We weren’t sure about a mile as she got it well at two, but Ryan (Moore) gave her a beautiful, uncomplicated ride and kept it simple for her. He gave her every chance to show all her best attributes.
“The other two going to Epsom with Love are very good fillies. One of them was second and the other one was third in the Ribblesdale, so they are both very good fillies.”
Anthony Oppenheimer, Frankly Darling
“It was fantastic to watch at Royal Ascot. We thought she was useful, but to see her win the way she did was very nice. In these times that we’re in, to have a big winner like that was really good.
“I would absolutely love to win the Oaks – it’s the only British Classic we haven’t bred the winner of and it’s one of my big ambitions. It won’t be easy, of course, but let’s hope this filly can do it.”
Peter Chapple-Hyam, Bharani Star
“Frankly Darling was very good in the Ribblesdale and we’d probably struggle to beat the two favourites (Love and Frankly Darling) if they are on top form.
“However, I see no reason why we can’t possibly turn the form around with Aidan’s (O’Brien) two (Ennistymon and Passion) that beat us at Ascot or, at the very least, one of them.
“The way the race was run didn’t really suit horses coming from behind. All in all it was a very good run.
“I have had a big-priced filly place in the Oaks in the past (Inchila, fourth at 40-1 in 2014) so that never bothers me.
“I know their ability going in and I think I know what it takes to win an Oaks or at least go very close.”
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With just the dead eight runners and no obvious pace angle, this is likely to get tactical.
Frankie Dettori is a man you want in your corner when it becomes a game of chess, and he has a more than willing partner in FRANKLY DARLING.
She looked top-class in the Ribblesdale, for all she was in the boxseat throughout, and there should be plenty more to come with just four starts under her belt. She looks the likeliest winner.
Love was undeniably impressive in the 1000 Guineas, but there are serious question marks over the strength of that form.
And she was so dominant over a mile that it begs the question, is this step up in trip really what she want? She needs fast ground to be at her best, too.
From an each-way perspective, it is hard to envisage Ennistymon not playing a part as she was left with a mountain to climb when second to Frankly Darling at Ascot.
She ran some eye-catching splits in the final few furlongs and should give John Gosden’s star plenty to think about.
On a similar theme, Bharani Star was given plenty to do in the Ribblesdale and could hit the frame at a monster price for he talented but underused trainer.