Will Love break their hearts once again?

Love hurts: Aidan O’Brien’s star filly powers away from the Oaks field at Epsom under Ryan Moore last month. Frankly Darling (red cap), who opposes at York on Thursday, is in third. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire/focusonracing.com

Okay, Enable beating Magical is a hard act to follow, especially as both those magnificent mares have been re-routed elsewhere.

However, don’t go thinking that Thursday’s Yorkshire Oaks will go ahead minus star quality among the fillies. Not with spectacular dual-Classic winner Love heading the field, it won’t. 

In truth, though, anything other than victory for Ballydoyle’s star would have to be regarded as a major shock in the Darley-sponsored Group 1, the second of three Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ Challenge races this week at York’s Ebor Festival.

Winner of both the 1000 Guineas and Oaks in sensational fashion, the hugely talented daughter of Galileo will start longs odds-on for this 1m4f contest,

With Frankie Dettori staying in France until the coming weekend owing to quarantine restrictions, John Gosden has called up stable stalwart Robert Havlin to ride Oaks third Frankly Darling, while James Doyle partners course winner Franconia. Both are daughters of Frankel.

The Yorkshire Oaks is also part of the Qipco British Champions Series; amid the coronavirus pandemic, prize money is down to £250,000.

Yorkshire Oaks: a bit of context

History: Originally did what it said on the tin as a race restricted to fillies of the Classic generation when it began in 1849. It was only as recently as 1991 that it was opened to older fillies and mares, but there have already been three dual winners: Only Royale (1993, 1994), Islington (2002, 2003) and Enable (2017, 2019).

Star turn: Enable (2019) – straightforward brilliance and consider the form; beaten 2¾ lengths into second as Enable extended her winning streak to 12 was arch-rival Magical, easily shrugged off in a dominant front-running display. Handicappers rated this as Enable’s top effort during her 5-year-old campaign on official ratings – and enough for a share of top spot in the end-of-year world rankings.

Most wins (trainer): Matthew Dawson (9) - Leonie (1868), Gertrude (1870), Spinaway (1875), Lady Golightly (1877), Jannette (1878), Wheel Of Fortune (1879), Dutch Oven (1882), Britomartis (1883), Clochette (1884).

Sir Michael Stoute (9) - Fair Salinia (1978), Sally Brown (1985), Untold (1986), Hellenic (1990), Pure Grain (1995), Petrushka (2000), Islington (2002, 2003), Quiff (2004). 

Most wins (jockey): Fred Archer (8) - Spinaway (1875), Lady Golightly (1877), Jannette (1878), Wheel Of Fortune (1879), Dutch Oven (1882), Britomartis (1883), Clochette (1884), Philosophy (1886).

Breeders’ Cup Challenge

The winner of the Yorkshire Oaks will receive an automatic fees-paid berth in the Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf at the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland on November 7. A minimum travel allowance of $40,000 will also be provided for all starters based outside North America.

Already qualified (2): Queen Supreme (Paddock Stakes, Kenilworth, South Africa), Almond Eye (Victoria Mile, Tokyo)

Breeders’ Cup past performance

The Yorkshire Oaks often produces a serious contender for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Islington won her second in 2003 before scoring at Santa Anita; she had been third 12 months previously at Arlington after her first Yorkshire Oaks triumph. 

Other notable recent efforts include Midday, beaten a neck by Shared Account as defending champ in 2010 after winning at York, and The Fugue, who two years later was an unlucky third to Zagora at Santa Anita after running second at York.

Top contenders for 2020

Love (Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore) – superstar in the making after runaway victories in both British fillies’ Classics to date by a cumulative total of more than 13 lengths (record nine-length Oaks win); hard to oppose.

One Voice (Jessica Harrington/Tom Marquand) – narrow defeat at hands of Prix de Diane winner Fancy Blue in Nassau Stakes; connections suggest extra 2f will suit.

Frankly Darling (John Gosden/Robert Havlin) – highly regarded Royal Ascot winner but put firmly in her place when market rival for Love in the Oaks.

Franconia (John Gosden/James Doyle) – quick step up in grade for Frankel filly after listed victory at this venue on July 29; should appreciate extra distance here.

Manuela De Vega (Ralph Beckett/Rob Hornby) – improved performer this term; no worries about possible softer ground nor trip for this tough 4-year-old filly, who has a pair of nice Group wins at Haydock to her name.

What they say

  • Jessica Harrington (trainer of One Voice): “We were delighted with One Voice’s run in the Nassau and she came out of the race really well. We felt our filly would improve again for going up in trip, which she did.  She’s a filly that has improved all year and her pedigree suggests she should be even better over a mile and a half. I know it’s a big ask with Love in there, but you have to try.”
  • Aidan O’Brien (trainer of Love): “Love has had a good break since the Oaks. She’s done very well physically, and this is a nice start back to her on a flat track, on nice ground. She’s a beautiful mover and she tries very hard. We’re looking forward to running her again. She’s a very exciting filly.”
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