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Jockey Club Oaks international scouting reports 2019

By Kellie Reilly

European shippers played second fiddle to Concrete Rose in the first two legs of the New York Racing Association’s inaugural Turf Tiara, so in her injury-forced absence, it’s logical to look to the internationals in Saturday’s finale, the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks at Belmont Park.  

The task is complicated, however, by the fact that the 1 3/8-mile affair has attracted all new invaders. Moreover, even the domestic contenders are largely newcomers to the series, with only Dyna Passer, fifth to Concrete Rose in the Belmont Oaks (G1) two back, around to represent her form.

The three Europeans also bring contrasting profiles – a lightly raced type with upside (Edisa), a rapid improver coming off a busy summer (Love So Deep), and a leading juvenile trying to rediscover her best form (Wonderment).

EDISA

The Aga Khan’s homebred Edisa rates as the 5-2 morning-line favorite with Flavien Prat, and the price is the only unappealing thing about the Alain de Royer-Dupre trainee.

A Kentucky-bred sired by Kitten’s Joy, Edisa is the first foal from 2013 Prix de Royallieu (G2) winner Ebiyza by Rock of Gibraltar. She descends from 1997 Irish Oaks (G1) and Prix Royal-Oak (G1) heroine Ebadiyla, herself a half-sister to Gold Cup (G1) stars Enzeli (1999) and Estimate (2013).

Edisa made one start at two, a stalking third in a newcomers’ race at Saint-Cloud. The winner, Juddmonte’s Obligate, has gone on to take the Prix de Sandringham (G2) and most recently placed third to Laurens in the Prix Rothschild (G1).

After Edisa’s non-threatening eighth in her April 14 reappearance, de Royer-Dupre understood she required stiffer training, as reported by Thoroughbred Daily News: “I subsequently realised that Kitten’s Joys need to be worked hard in the mornings and once we changed her exercise routine she has shown what she is capable of.”

Edisa has been in smart form ever since. She broke her maiden on the step up to about 1 5/16 miles at Maisons-Laffitte, still on the bridle as she struck the front. Edisa was confronted by a challenge but held sway by a comfortable three-quarters of a length.

Next came a successful stakes debut in the Prix Melisande. Although the form isn’t memorable, Edisa did well to overcome traffic and would have been an unlucky loser. Her ground-saving perch almost became a trap in the stretch, but she had the athleticism to maneuver, and the acceleration to pick up as the rest were already in full flight. Stablemate Golden Box made it a tight finish; still, without the hold-up Edisa might have had more to spare.

Edisa mixed it up at a higher level when runner-up in the about 1 1/2-mile Prix de Malleret (G2). Under confident handling in the stretch, she tried to battle Mehdaayih but proved no match as the hot favorite asserted her class. Considering that Mehdaayih was the beaten Epsom Oaks (G1) favorite, who has since placed second to Japan’s globetrotter Deirdre in the Nassau (G1), Edisa enhanced her stature in defeat.

As the favorite herself on the cutback to about 1 1/4 miles in the Prix de Psyche (G3), Edisa had to settle for second to Villa Marina, whom she’d beaten in her maiden win. Edisa dropped to the rear early, spun wide to loom a danger but was outkicked. Possibly she’s looking for further at this point, or the very soft going may have been a factor.  

De Royer-Dupre’s opinion of her is evident from her list of fancy entries. Her French Oaks (G1) engagement didn’t come off, but she has three options over Arc weekend, from the Prix de l’Opera (G1) to the Prix Chaudenay (G2) versus males and the upgraded Prix de Royallieu (G1) over longer distances.

Edisa travels through her races like a performer of real quality. It’s just a question of when and where she makes her mark.

LOVE SO DEEP

If it’s possible to be both a blueblood and an underdog, hard-trying Love So Deep qualifies. The Japanese-bred boasts an impeccable international pedigree as a daughter of the late, great Deep Impact and the Sadler’s Wells mare Soinlovewithyou. Her dam is a three-quarter sister to 2013 Epsom Derby (G1) hero Ruler of the World and a half to Duke of Marmalade, from the further tribe of A.P. Indy, Summer Squall, and Lemon Drop Kid.

But Lady Bamford’s homebred didn’t show much during her juvenile campaign. Then trained by Richard Hannon Jr., Love So Deep was unplaced in her first four tries in sprints. She improved on the stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles when third in a Wolverhampton nursery, yet not enough to retain her place in the operation.

Thus Love So Deep was culled at Tattersalls last December. Swettenham Stud Australia snared her for just 50,000 guineas ($60,274) and transferred her to Jane Chapple-Hyam. Now she would start living up to her bloodlines.

Wasting no more time over inadequate trips, Love So Deep went straight into a 1 1/4-mile handicap at Nottingham April 10 and gutted out her first win in a three-way tussle. While her light weight helped, she just wanted it more. Love So Deep wheeled back to make it two in a row in a similar event at Yarmouth, despite picking up 10 pounds.

Up to listed level in the Cheshire Oaks, Love So Deep chased the no-hoper pacesetter and tired to seventh behind the commanding Mehdaayih. She was given another chance in the Height of Fashion at Goodwood. Jockey John Egan adopted off-the-pace tactics, and she rallied for a much better third.

Her crack at the Ribblesdale (G2) at Royal Ascot appeared ambitious. Accordingly dispatched as the 66-1 longest shot on the board, Love So Deep outperformed the odds in a creditable fifth behind Star Catcher. She stayed at the 1 1/2-mile trip but returned to listed company for the July 20 Aphrodite Fillies’ S. at Newmarket, where Dame Malliot blew by as if she were standing still. Although a distant fourth, Love So Deep finished a bit closer to third-placer Sparkle Roll than she did in the Ribblesdale.

Back over the same course and distance in the August 3 Chalice, Love So Deep delivered her breakout performance. You might call it a richly deserved reward for her good attitude – and for Chapple-Hyam’s shrewd spotting.

There was no resting on her laurels as Love So Deep made another quick turnaround for the about 1 9/16-mile Prix de Pomone (G2) at Deauville August 18. The hardy filly continued her upward curve with a near-upset of Dame Malliot. Finishing behind them were a few accomplished older distaffers, with third-place Klassique and fourth Ligne d’Or bringing current form to bear.

Dame Malliot’s connections noted the big filly was at sea on the heavy going and prevailed on sheer class. On anything resembling a typical racing surface, the margin probably isn’t as close.

Even if Love So Deep hasn’t made a true seven-length improvement in a month, no doubt she’s in peak career form. And while she coped with the heavy better than Dame Malliot, she’s not reliant on it. Indeed, all three of her wins have come on good-to-firm.

Aside from a scruple about whether she might have been a little flattered by the closeness of the margin, it could be significant that Love So Deep is wheeling back again. She’s being asked for a third straight top effort, following eight starts in a four-month span, on top of a transatlantic ship, and turning back in trip to 1 3/8 miles. Chapple-Hyam has done an incredible job with Love So Deep all season, so she might well keep the proverbial iron hot. Whatever she achieves from this point on, however, is a bonus.

Prince Faisal’s Denford Stud has reportedly purchased Love So Deep, and she is expected to retire after a fall swan song. That could come in the October 12 E.P. Taylor (G1).

WONDERMENT

Although Wonderment has yet to build on her signature win over males in last October’s Criterium de Saint-Cloud (G1), she can’t be dismissed. Trainer Nicolas Clement retains enough faith to make her an early entry in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1), and his last forays here were with Now We Can, who placed in the 2016-17 editions of the Belmont Gold Cup.

Wonderment’s pedigree also points to performance at Belmont. She’s by Camelot, sire of last year’s Belmont Oaks (G1) upsetter Athena, and out of Swiss champion Wiwilia, who is a half-sister to 2016 Man o’ War (G1) hero Wake Forest. This is the black-type rich family of current multiple Group 1 star Waldgeist.

A €60,000 ($70,560) Arqana October yearling, Wonderment was a handsome winner first out at Evreux, going last to first under a hand ride and opening up by daylight. The fact she started out at about nine furlongs indicated that stamina would be her game.

Wonderment took on males, and a far different caliber of rival, in the Prix de Conde (G3). She did her best work late to snatch third to Line of Duty, the next-out Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner. In the meantime that effort made her no more than a 12-1 outsider in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud. Already needing about 1 1/4 miles, she stayed on relentlessly to nab Aidan O’Brien’s Sydney Opera House and Fox Tal. In the process she became the first female to take the prize since Passage of Time (2006).

Wonderment was initially under consideration for the Oaks at Epsom, but ended up taking the classic route at home and reappeared in a May 17 conditions race at Chantilly. In a reversal of her juvenile tactics, she led early but was swamped late and relegated to fourth. She was only beaten a couple of lengths by the victorious Channel and in a three-way photo for the minors.

That’s the story of her 2019 campaign so far, with her two ensuing starts likewise resulting in unplaced efforts while finishing about two lengths or so off the winner. Wonderment prompted the pace as a 20-1 shot in the French Oaks, hung tough in the vanguard in upper stretch, only to see Channel once again surge past her to victory, and other closers overtake her as she crossed the wire seventh.

The logical play was to step her up in trip – after all, a filly who won a 10-furlong Group 1 at two probably wants more distance at three – but the about 1 9/16-mile Prix Minerve (G3) didn’t improve her fortunes. Reverting to patient tactics in the rear, Wonderment couldn’t gain enough on the leaders and wound up sixth of seven. Fellow closer Palomba fared much better in a near-miss third. Might a more forward style have worked better over the longer trip?

It’s tempting to conclude that Wonderment capitalized on a less-than-stellar renewal of the Criterium de Saint-Cloud and has been found out this season. Yet it’s also plausible that she’s still in search of her optimal distance and running style.  

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