Stoute seeks third Oaks victory with Liber Nauticus
The market leader is Ralph Beckett’s impressive Lingfield trial winner Secret Gesture. She will run in the colours of Qatar Racing who purchased a half-share in the filly this week. Secret Gesture has been the best backed filly in the race since striding clear at the Sussex course to win by ten lengths under minimal assistance from jockey Jim Crowley.
Her main market rival is Aidan O’Brien’s Moth who finished strongly to take third in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. O’Brien has won the Oaks on four previous occasions including last year with 20-1 shot Was. The Guineas form received a boost when runner-up Just The Judge won the Irish equivalent last weekend and Moth is expected to benefit from the step up in trip.
Sir Michael Stoute has saddled two previous Oaks winners, the last being Unite in 1987. He is represented by Musidora Stakes winner Liber Nauticus. The daughter of Azamour did not impress everyone that day but it was only her second race and she is expected to relish the extra two furlongs. Banoffee produced a good turn of foot to catch Gertrude Versed in the Cheshire Oaks and has been supplemented by Hughie Morrison. The runner-up re-opposes but looked to have the run of the race at Chester and will have a difficult task reversing the form.
O’Brien also saddles easy maiden winner Say whilst Beckett has a useful second-string in Pretty Polly Stakes winner Talent, the mount of Richard Hughes. She holds Michael Bell’s Madame Defarge on that form and Bell may have better luck with the lightly-raced The Lark, ridden by Jamie Spencer. She was not helped by a slow pace in her seasonal debut at Newbury and is expected to improve considerably for the run.
The field is completed by Lingfield runner-up Miss You Too and Harry Dunlop’s Roz. Secret Gesture is the 9-4 favourite to provide Beckett with his second Oaks winner following Look Here in 2008. Moth is a strong second-favourite at 3-1 with Liber Nauticus priced at 100-30.