2021 Epsom Oaks Ante-Post Tips: Snowfall in June

2021 Oaks Tips: Aidan O'Brien holds the strongest hand once again.
2021 Oaks Tips: Aidan O'Brien holds the strongest hand once again.

Joe Tuffin picks out his ante-post bets for the 2021 Oaks, which takes place at Epsom Downs on Friday 4th June...

The premier event for fillies on the flat is just over two weeks away at the time of writing, and with the key trials now behind us we’ve got the clearest picture we’re likely to have when finding the winner of the Oaks in the antepost markets. 

It’s a race that has been absolutely dominated by John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien in recent years (Only one other trainer has claimed the race since 2012), and it appears on first glance that we can expect to see the pattern continue as O’Brien holds the two sharpest tools in the shed, Santa Barbara and Snowfall - the prior mentioned sitting pretty at the top at around 15/8. 

It’s crazy to think that the horse lining up for only their third career start will have been favourite for two English Classics, but such is the praise she has been given by master handler Aidan O’Brien that she once again looks at the one to beat in the market. An impressive fourth in only her second career start when running green in the 1000 Guineas, she’s a hard one to measure up as the only thing we have to go off that really justifies her market position is what her trainer has said about her. Her win on debut was smart enough, but it’s tricky to apply two-year-old maiden form to the Oaks, and that prior mentioned fourth showed plenty of encouragement with such little experience, but to be getting stuck into her at 15/8 off the back of that? You’d be braver than me.

I instead prefer the other O’Brien hot shot Snowfall, who looks to have really stepped up as a three-year-old when storming home in the Musidora Stakes at the Dante Festival - putting an underwhelming two-year-old season behind her. There was a lot to like about her win at York, the manner in which she put the race to bed was visibly eye-catching, making all and pulling clear once the pressure was applied to claim a three-and-three-quarter-length victory. She didn’t look like she was stopping either, and is sure to relish the extra couple furlongs provided by the Oaks. There were some smart fillies behind her in Noon Star and Teona but the manner of her victory made them look a little average, and I think this vastly improved filly can become the seventh to complete the Musidora/Oaks double.

The aforementioned Teona sits third in the market currently and is the first of the runners available to back in the each-way market at 15/2. A thrice raced filly, she took a big hike up in class when heading to the Musidora and was well fancied - being sent off at 15/8. She didn’t do anything particularly wrong per say and just seemed to be outclassed by the smarter filly. I’ve looked to see if there’s anyway she can reverse that form but I’m drawing blanks, and she may have her work cut out if she’s to land a blow in the Classic. The same can be said for Noon Star, who was the 11/10 favourite for the Musidora after two nice victories at Nottingham and Wetherby, albeit in much lesser events. A win, or even a close second, would have put her as a leading player for the Oaks but she just seemed to lack that bit of quality in the business end of the race and ultimately finished third  and again may struggle to reverse the form with Snowfall.

The Roger Varian trained Zeyaadah is the last of single figure runners, and has only once tasted defeat in her four career starts. Unbeaten as a two-year-old, including Listed honours at Newmarket, she made her seasonal return in the Cheshire Oaks and ran a smart race round the tricky circuit, eventually finishing a length behind Dubai Fountain in second. As is often the case at Chester, she didn’t get the clearest of runs from stall seven so showed plenty of ability to finish where she did, which would explain why the market has her shorter than her conqueror Dubai Fountain, who looked good but it’s hard to say great. Ultimately, I don't see the winner of the Oaks coming from this race which looked fairly moderate in the grand scheme of things, but expect Zeyaadah to reverse the form Epsom.

1000 Guineas second Saffron Beach catches the eye at 16/1 after succumbing to only a one length defeat in the Newmarket Classic, but she looks much more suited to a mile - with little stamina on her Dams side. The Irish 1000 Guineas was touted as the target but connections will roll the dice at Epsom, a decision they may end up regretting with the Irish 1000 looking very winnable comparatively. She’s quite short for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (7/1) and I expect if she’s to taste success, it’ll be there.

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Sea Empress and Shale are the two others worthy of note, with the first mentioned vastly inexperienced with only two runs under her belt. Her first run was a victory, downing Teona at Newcastle - the pair well clear of the field - and she was latterly seen finishing sixth in Listed company though she did lose a shoe during the race. She represents top connections with William Haggas and may be worth a play in the each-way market with the assumption she’d have been much better than a sixth last time out and now at least has that bit extra experience. Shale is one of the more experienced in the field with seven runs under her belt, and also is the only runner with a Group 1 under her belt, but she has a fair few questions to answer after a sixth in the Fillies’ Mile on her last start as a two-year-old and was a very underwhelming and seemingly execuseless fifth on her reappearance in the Group 3 1000 Guineas trial, and is probably best avoided here. 

The Oaks
Snowfall silk


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