Ralph Beckett has ambitions of a second Investec Oaks victory with three promising fillies from the trainer featuring among the 67 entries received for this year’s Classic at Epsom Downs on Friday, May 31 – Investec Ladies Day.
The handler sent out Look Here to success in 2008 and his contenders for Investec Oaks glory are headed by Secret Gesture, who is a 25/1 chance with Boylesports.com following a comfortable success on her second outing at Newbury in October.
The three-year-old daughter of Galileo, owned and bred by Newsells Park Stud, is from the family of the 1998 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Sagamix.
Beckett revealed: “We are looking at the Investec Oaks for Secret Gesture but we have to find out if she is good enough to go to Epsom first.
“Her next start will be in a trial but obviously which trial she goes for depends on how everything pans out.
“She has wintered well and is going well. She has not done any fast work – she is a way off that yet – but is in good shape. She was pretty backward last year and she did well to achieve what she did.
“On pedigree, the step up to middle distances should really suit her this year and if she is good enough for the Investec Oaks, the trip is not going to be an issue.”
Beckett has also entered Kempton conditions race scorer Talent and Hold On Tight, who finished third in her only outing last season in a competitive mile maiden at Newmarket.
He continued: “Talent and Hold On Tight also have Investec Oaks ambitions at this stage.
“Talent is a half-sister to Skilful, who is basically a seven-furlong handicapper, but she is out of a mare who was placed in a Cheshire Oaks and by an Investec Derby winner in New Approach so you would think she will stay.
“She showed plenty at two given her pedigree and we were able to win a race with her and put her away, which helped us.
“As with Secret Gesture, she will show up in a trial somewhere and we will see how get on.
“Ideally, we would want to win a maiden with Hold On Tight because she needs more experience. She was very green in her maiden at Newmarket and didn’t really get motoring until she came out of the dip.
“She is also quite immature mentally and will need to start somewhere before we step her up.
“She is by Hernando, out of a Swain mare so you would think a mile and a half would suit her well.
“Whether she is up to the Oaks, I don’t know, but she shows up well at home and I wasn’t surprised she ran like that at Newmarket.”
The entries for the 12-furlong race, which has prize money of £400,000 this year, an increase of £50,000 compared to 2012, include plenty of proven fillies headlined by last season’s European champion filly Certify (20/1), one of six possible representatives for Godolphin. The Mahmood Al Zarooni-trained filly is unbeaten in four starts and was last seen capturing the Group One Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in September.
Sir Michael Stoute, successful in the Investec Oaks with Fair Salina (1978) and Unite (1987), has two exciting entries including ante-post favourite Liber Nauticus, who is 10/1 with Coral following an eye-catching debut success at Goodwood in September. The trainer has also entered Auld Alliance, a half-sister to his Investec Derby runners-up Golan and Tartan Bearer. Like Liber Nauticus, she is owned by Ballymacoll Stud.
Charlie Hills has made a good start to his training career since taking over from his father Barry in 2011 and his quartet is headed by unbeaten Just The Judge, who completed a hat-trick of wins in the Grade Two Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket in October.
Hot Snap, a half-sister to multiple Grade One winner Midday, is one of three entries for Sir Henry Cecil, who is the most successful current trainer in the Classic with eight triumphs.
Newmarket handler William Haggas sent out 2011 heroine Dancing Rain and has three exciting prospects in this year’s renewal headlined by Lady Nouf, who touched off Secret Gesture on debut at Leicester.
Champion trainer John Gosden has made six entries including Cushion, a daughter of five-time Group One heroine Attraction
Two entries from Ed Dunlop include Filia Regina, a daughter of Ouija Board who was the runaway winner of Investec Oaks in 2004, while his brother Harry could saddle Fillies’ Mile runner-up Roz.
Irish champion trainer Aidan O’Brien claimed his fourth Investec Oaks victory last season when Was won by a neck in 2012, and the handler has 10 entries this time around, headed by Group Three winner Magical Dream, who is out of Group One Lockinge Stakes scorer Red Evie.
John Oxx is no stranger to Classic success at Epsom Downs, having won two Investec Derbys and he could bid for a first victory in the fillies’ equivalent with impressive maiden scorer Tarana.
Rasmeyaa, who captured a competitive maiden at Leopardstown by five and a half lengths, has been entered by Dermot Weld, while David Wachman could run Hint Of A Tint, who has not been seen since winning a Curragh maiden in July.
Andrew Cooper, Head of Racing and Clerk of the Course at Epsom Downs Racecourse, commented: “The Investec Oaks is full of quality entries and we look forward to the build-up to the 235th running of the premier fillies’ Classic over the next two and a half months.”