Epsom Preview 2022: Spot Plays for Oaks Day

June 2nd, 2022

After weeks of anticipation, the two most important Classics in British racing have arrived. The two-day meet at Epsom Downs begins on Friday, with the Oaks taking center stage.

There is plenty of other interest for racing enthusiasts bar the three-year-old fillies’ Classic on Friday, however, with the Coronation Cup (G1), the Surrey Stakes (Listed), and some great handicap racing.

Here are some plays to consider at Epsom on Friday.

Race 3: Coronation Cup (G1), 1 1/2 miles, 4-year-olds and up

Britain’s first Group 1 race for the season at 1 1/2 miles has been won by some notable horses, among them Petite Etoile, Mill Reef, Exceller, and St Nicholas Abbey, who won the race three times. Whether any of this year’s six contenders is in their class is yet to be seen, but at least five of those six look to have genuine winning chances; only #5 Palavecino looks out of his depth.

Three of the runners are having their first runs since Dubai World Cup day: #6 Pyledriver and #2 Hukum, fourth and seventh, respectively, in the 1 1/2-mile Sheema Classic (G1), and #4 Manobo, second in the 2-mile Dubai Gold Cup (G2).

#3 Living Legend seeks his fourth consecutive win after scoring a shock victory over Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Yibir in the 1 1/2-mile Jockey Club Stakes (G2) at Newmarket April 29, while 2021 Irish Derby favorite #1 High Definition is here after finally living up to his potential when nearly leading all the way in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1) at The Curragh, being defeated only on the line.

It would be likely that High Definition will head to the front again; chances are the pace will be reasonable, and it might set up the race for the best stayer. So though Pyledriver has the best form to date, I’m going to go with the most proven stayer, which in this case is Manobo.

  • $10 win: #4 Manobo
  • $1 trifecta: 4, 6 with 1, 4, 6 with all

Race 4: Cazoo Handicap, 1 1/4 miles, 4-year-olds and up

An interesting race, featuring a number of horses on the way up. The best formline comes from #6 Moktasaab, unbeaten in two races this year. However, he is racing for the first time at Epsom, which with its undulations and tricky downhill stretch around Tattenham Corner can trip some horses up.

With that in mind, I’m going for #2 Soto Sizzler. He won well at this course April 19 in the hands of Ryan Moore, who retains the mount here.

Along with Moktasaab, topweight #1 Victory Chime should be respected; he didn’t race well first-up, but he won once and was second on the other occasion in his Epsom starts last year and that should stand him in good stead here.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #2 Soto Sizzler
  • $1 exacta box: 1, 2, 6

Race 5: Cazoo Oaks (G1), 1 1/2 miles, 3-year-old fillies

John and Thady Gosden have a strong hand in this race, saddling not only the expected short-priced favorite #2 Emily Upjohn, but also another strong candidate in #5 Nashwa. The latter has won twice this season, at Haydock and Newbury, but her performances were put in the shade by Emily Upjohn. She remains unbeaten in three starts following an emphatic victory in the Musidora (G3) May 11 and with Frankie Dettori in the saddle, she has a strong chance.

There are some good fillies over from Ireland as well: #10 Tuesday and #1 Concert Hall, second and third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas (G1), will have plenty of admirers, as will Cheshire Oaks winner #8 Thoughts of June. All three come from the Aidan O’Brien stable, while his son Joseph also has a useful candidate in #9 Tranquil Lady, a clear-cut winner of the Blue Wind (G3) May 7.

However, in an open race, I’m going to have a go at Godolphin’s #11 With The Moonlight. The Charlie Appleby stable has been in fantastic form in the early classics, and this Frankel filly was very impressive when winning the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket May 1. She looks set to stay 1 1/2 miles and could be at good value.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #11 With The Moonlight
  • $1 trifecta: 2, 11 with 1, 2, 5, 11 with 1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11

Race 6: Surrey Stakes (Listed), 7 furlongs, 3-year-olds

Seven horses are contesting this race, though three stand out on form. #6 Oscula wasn’t far off some good fillies last term, and her failure in the Saudi Derby can be excused given it was her only run on dirt. If she can get back to the form that won her the Prix Six Perfections (G3) and place in the Prix Marcel Boussac (G1), she will be tough to roll. She also has a win at Epsom to her credit.

#2 Dawn of Liberation comes into the race having won two of his three starts this year, including a nice triumph at Goodwood April 29, while #3 Ever Given was an impressive winner at Chester two starts back before failing at Group 2 level at Haydock May 21.

It’s not an especially easy race to tip, but I’ll go with Dawn Of Liberation; his only failure this year was when asked to go past a mile, and he should relish the return to 7 furlongs, not to mention the benefit of Ryan Moore’s services.

  • $10 win/$20 show: #2 Dawn of Liberation