The Daily Telegraph - Business
Dubai Fountain can end Epsom wait for Johnston
➤ Trainer backs filly to win Oaks despite pre-race ‘hiccup’ ➤ Santa Barbara favourite but doubts remain over experience
Mark Johnston can land his first Epsom Classic today by winning the Cazoo Oaks with Dubai Fountain, whose double-figure price in the ante-post market seems at odds with her position as officially the highest-rated filly in the race.
On her final start of last season, in the Fillies’ Mile, she was a neck behind the subsequent 1,000 Guineas winner, Mother Earth, in fourth.
The Middleham-trained filly clearly seemed to relish the step up to a mile and a half in the Cheshire Oaks, where she beat Zeyaadah, a shorter-priced rival today, by a length. “She’s in good shape,” Johnston said yesterday.
“She had a slight hiccup and missed a final gallop, but we didn’t feel she needed it and I’m very happy with her condition.
“I was asked if I thought she would step up to this level after Chester, but she was a good fourth in a Group One on her last start at two, so I don’t think it’s a case of having to step up. I’ll be disappointed if she is not in the first four.”
Having run seven times at two, experience is not something she will be lacking, but it is something of which the favourite, Santa Barbara, has precious little.
Aidan O’Brien gave her only her second start in the 1,000 Guineas, in which she finished fourth, as much as anything because he hoped she would learn more there than in a regular trial.
She is clearly useful, but nevertheless it is still a big ask to go to the Oaks for just your third start and her stable companion Snowfall, a 3¾-length winner of the Musidora, makes more appeal.
It was noticeable that O’Brien was keen to highlight the chances of Divinely, the third of his five runners. She is the sister to one of Ballydoyle’s finest race mares, Found, and O’Brien said they had gone too slow for her in the Lingfield Trial and that all the figures for her home work were coming out high. Roger Varian has a big weekend in front of him, with Third Realm in tomorrow’s Derby, El Drama in the French Derby on Sunday and Teona going in today’s Oaks.
Teona looked a bit mentally immature behind Snowfall in the Musidora, getting upset in the stalls, blowing the start and then pulling and tiring. She is tried in a hood today and if it works it would bring her into play.
There must be a doubt about Saffron Beach getting the trip, but she finished in front of Santa Barbara in the 1,000 Guineas, and she would be a popular winner for Jane ChappleHyam and Adam Kirby, who, having been jocked off John Leeper in the Derby in favour of Frankie Dettori, has picked up the ride on the higherrated Adayar for Godolphin in tomorrow’s Classic.
The Coral Coronation Cup should provide a moment of truth for Al Aasy, who looked sensational in two Group Threes on soft ground at Newbury this spring. Whether he is as effective on drier ground and what he beat at Newbury, we will find out today.
The supplemented Albaflora looks the big danger. She was very impressive last time out on soft ground at Ascot, beating Tribal Craft by seven lengths. The runnerup has since won well.