Hanson: Value Play for the 2024 Epsom Oaks

May 29th, 2024

Derby weekend at historic Epsom Downs outside London kicks off Friday with two Group 1s on the schedule, the Oaks (G1) for three-year-old fillies and the Coronation Cup (G1) for older runners, both over 1 1/2 miles.

The Coronation Cup did not come together as a particularly deep race with five runners, so I will simply sit back and see whether Emily Upjohn can follow in the hoof steps of the legendary Pretty Polly and the famed Triptych as two-time female winners of the race.

The Oaks, despite not being one of the more appealing renewals I've seen in recent years, is always worth a crack, especially with a dozen lining up.

First off, there's nothing especially to dislike about either of the top two betting choices, other than the odds. #11 Ylang Ylang (2-1) has been a touch inconsistent throughout her career, but was a Group 1 winner at two and should come on from her close fifth in the 1000 Guineas (G1).

I think The Aga Khan-owned #3 Ezeliya (7-2) will be more formidable. She's won two of her three starts, including the Salsabil (G3) at Navan last out, and the extra two furlongs of the Oaks figures to be in her wheelhouse.

However, the filly that catches my eye as a value-play win contender is #4 Forest Fairy (8-1), who enters the Oaks with a 2-for-2 mark. Not debuting until Feb. 10 in a novice over the all-weather 1 1/2 miles at Wolverhampton, Forest Fairy proceeded to blow that field away by six lengths.

Rested three months until the May 8 Cheshire Oaks, Forest Fairy displayed improvement in her first try on turf. Settled in behind the leaders entering the relatively short straight, Forest Fairy responded when switched out for running room and nicked the Coolmore-owned Port Fairy in the final strides of the about 1 1/2-mile test.

A descendant of the great German globetrotting mare Borgia, Forest Fairy might take to the expected soft conditions on Friday better than most. She is by Waldgeist, who did his best work on soft ground, most notably denying the great Enable a third consecutive win in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) back in 2019.

After cashing a $35 win bet on Enchanting Empress in the National S. but losing a $41 bet on Chesspiece in the Henry II (G3) at Sandown on May 23, my English betting bankroll stands at $775 from an original starting point of $1,000. That means the 5%-of-balance win play on Forest Fairy in the Oaks will be $39.