With the announcement by Epsom clerk of the course Andrew Cooper that the official going at Epsom is now soft following 21mm of rain, only nine fillies have been declared for Friday’s Investec Oaks
The most noticeable absentees were Aidan O’Brien’s Magical – who, despite suffering a knock when cantering on Tuesday, was expected to take part in the mile-and-a-half classic - and the William Haggas-trained Sea Of Class, the second favourite.
Connections of Sea Of Class, the daughter of 2009 Derby winner Sea The Stars and an impressive winner of a Newbury listed race earlier this month, had said all along that any decision on a classic bid would be made today, with ground being a potential issue.
The removal of such top-class horses has further diluted the field for this year’s race, which is already without Qipco 1000 Guineas champion Billesdon Brook, winter ante-post favourites Happily and September, and more recent ante-post favourite Lah Ti Dar, who is owned by Lord Lloyd-Webber and trained by John Gosden, who was responsible for last year’s winner, Enable.
Although world #1 trainer Aidan O'Brien saddles five in the race - Bye Bye Baby, Magic Wand, Flattering, I Can Fly and Forever Together – it is Charlie Appleby’s Wild Illusion who tops the markets at 5/2.
The Godolphin starlet, fourth in the 1000 Guineas, bids to give the Newmarket trainer a first English classic and Sheikh Mohammed’s racing operation a fourth Oaks.
Cooper told Racing UK that, although the rain has cleared at the Surrey track, there is “definitely a risk of showers tomorrow and some could be heavy”.
“After that, it looks dry for Friday and Saturday,” he said. “Temperatures will be in the low to mid-20s, so hopefully a couple of quite pleasant days. It’s definitely soft ground.
“Any appreciable rain tomorrow and we’d be staying soft. If we get the lower end of it, we will very slowly be drying out back towards good to soft. Whether we get there or not time will tell.
“The best you’d be looking at would be good to soft at the end of the week.”
Elsewhere on Friday’s card, Cracksman is the star attraction of the now six-runner Investec Coronation Cup.
Following the final declarations, Barsanti and Cliffs Of Moher are absentees, but the impressive Hawkbill and Idaho are the likeliest challengers to John Gosden's son of Frankel, who heads the betting at 1/3.