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23 confirmations for Oaks
19 May 2017 | Epsom Downs Racecourse 

Winter (Aidan O'Brien IRE) features among the 23 confirmations for the £500,000 G1 Investec Oaks, the premier fillies' Classic and highlight of Investec Ladies' Day on the first day of the Investec Derby Festival at Epsom Downs on Friday, June 2, which were revealed on Friday.

One of seven remaining entries for Ireland's champion trainer Aidan O'Brien, Winter landed the mile fillies' Classic, the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 7, when she came home two lengths clear of her stablemate Rhododendron, who should be suited by the extra half-mile of the Investec Oaks and is the 15/8 ante-post favourite with Unibet, the official betting partner of the Investec Derby Festival. Winter is an 8/1 chance.

Other leading Investec Oaks contenders owned by Coolmore partnerships at Ballydoyle include dual G1 runner-up Hydrangea (25/1), Listed Cheshire Oaks runner-up Alluringly (12/1)and recent French 1,000 Guineas fifth Rain Goddess (20/1).

O'Brien has a marvellous record in the Investec Oaks, producing the winner on six occasions, including the latest two renewals with Qualify (2015) and the great Minding (2016).

O'Brien's son Joseph could saddle his first Investec Oaks runner with Intricately (33/1), who landed last season's G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes but was down the field in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas.

US-based trainer Kenny McPeek has made a number of transatlantic challenges at Ascot over the years, with his best result coming in 2004 when Hard Buck was runner-up to Doyen in the G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

McPeek is set to saddle the first runner from the USA in the Investec Oaks this year, with Daddys Lil Darling (33/1) set to line up in the mile and a half Classic.

The three-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy has shown a high level of form in her homeland, most recently when going down by a length and a half in the G1 Kentucky Oaks over nine furlongs on dirt at Churchill Downs on May 5.

She was beaten a half-length in the G1 Ashland Stakes over an extended mile at Keeneland on April 8, while as a juvenile she was a G2 winner over an extended mile at Churchill Downs and also came home a staying-on fourth over the same distance in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita in November.

Kentucky-based McPeek commented: "It is absolutely the plan to come over for the Investec Oaks with Daddys Lil Darling.

"She is good right now. We have some logistical details to finalise, but the plan is to fly out on Monday. We will be boarding in Epsom with Jim Boyle (South Hatch Stables).

"She gets to canter every day on our turf course at the farm. She will have a scheduled work today and then will go light training before she travels.

"I don't think the mile and a half at Epsom Downs is going to be a problem - I think it is more a question of whether she is going to be competitive against some of the European runners, particularly Aidan O'Brien's Galileo fillies.

"We will have to see how she fits. She has obviously shown she is Grade One calibre in the US, both as a two-year-old and a three-year-old. We will be stepping into a different territory and are excited to find out how she handles it.

"I think she will handle the ground and distance without much trouble. Olivier Peslier will be taking the ride. The plan is for him to come and do some track work on Daddys Lil Darling on May 26.

"I am extremely excited by the challenge, I don't think any American trainer has every attempted this challenge. Hopefully, we can start a trend!"

Bred by owner Nancy Polk's Normandy Farm, Daddys Lil Darling has been placed second in three G1 races and her half-brother is G1 Breeder's Cup Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday, by Any Given Saturday. She is the final produce of the late mare Miss Hot Salsa and in total has won two of her eight races.

Newmarket handler John Gosden landed the 2014 Investec Oaks with Taghrooda and has three entries going forward, headed by Listed Cheshire Oaks heroine Enable (7/2). She could be joined by G1 Prix Saint-Alary third Coronet (10/1) and maiden winner Gracious Diana (25/1), who is declared to run in the Listed Haras De Bouquetot Fillies' Trial Stakes at Newbury tomorrow along with Aljezeera (Luca Cumani, 33/1), Natavia (Roger Charlton, 33/1) and Prosper (Roger Varian, 66/1).

Three of the remaining Investec Oaks' entries are in the ownership of Godolphin, last successful in the Epsom Downs Classic with Kazzia in 2002. The pick of the trio is G1 Prix Saint-Alary winner Sobetsu (Charlie Appleby, 12/1), with G3 1,000 Guineas Trial scorer Bean Feasa (Jim Bolger IRE, 33/1) and Dowayla (Saeed in Suroor, 66/1) also still engaged.

Other contenders include Horseplay (Andrew Balding, 14/1) and Isabel De Urbina (Ralph Beckett, 16/1), who were first and second respectively in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on May 7, and the progressive Vintage Folly (Hugo Palmer, 25/1), runner-up in the G3 Musidora Stakes at York on Wednesday.

The six-day confirmation stage for the Investec Oaks is on Saturday, May 27, when fillies can be added to the line-up at the £30,000 supplementary entry stage.

Investec Ladies' Day features two G1 races again this year, after the £400,000 Investec Coronation Cup for older horses, was switched back to the first day of the Investec Derby Festival.
 
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