Marvellous set for Classic double
Simon Holt looks ahead to Friday's Investec Oaks at Epsom and cannot see past another Aidan O'Brien winner of the Fillies' showpiece.
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MARVELLOUS, the ambitiously-named filly who showed great improvement to win the Irish 1000 Guineas last month, looks the one to beat in Friday's Investec Oaks.
Aidan O'Brien's 'marvellously' bred daughter of Galileo (out of a full sister to Giants Causeway), had finished only sixth on her reappearance behind stable-companion Bracelet at Leopardstown but proved a different proposition in the closing stages at The Curragh pulling three lengths clear of English Guineas runner-up Lightning Thunder (stablemate Palace beaten nine lengths into fifth).
Pushed along some way from home that day, Marvellous looked an unlikely winner for much of the race but stayed on really powerfully under Ryan Moore and, in the end, had her rivals well strung out in the soft ground.
It was a performance that strongly suggested (allied to her pedigree) a requirement for longer distances and a line through Lightning Thunder suggests she has the beating of the Newmarket third Ihtimal, though drawn in stall two towards the inside, she will need luck in running under Joseph O'Brien.
Stamina is really important in this race; the Shamardal filly Ihtimal, a winner over 10 furlongs in Dubai, is not a certain stayer over an extra quarter-mile but both Taghrooda and Tarfasha, the chief rivals to Marvellous in the betting, boast pretty stout lineage.
However, it is their form which is more open to question. While the well regarded Taghrooda was highly impressive in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket in May, it came in a slowly-run race and against moderate opposition though she could do little more than win well.
A well-built, imposing type, she hails from a stable with several smart three-year-old fillies this season and could be the big danger.
Tarfasha's Group Three win at Naas (Dazzling third) also suggests more improvement will be needed though, closely related to Derby second Galileo Rock and a half sister to that good stayer Saddlers Rock, she is a particularly interesting contender upped in trip. However, trainer Dermot Weld is concerned by the possibility of soft ground.
The hooded-for-the-first-time Lingfield Oaks Trial winner Honor Bound, trained by Ralph Beckett who sent out the first two last year (Talent and Secret Gesture), is another moreorless certain stayer but has drawn badly in stall 15 while the Musidora Stakes winner Madame Chiang (Lily Rules second, Regardez third) should also relish this mile and a half though is also awkwardly positioned, like Marvellous, on the inside. Both will be further advantaged by testing conditions but the quality of their victories looks unexciting.
Meanwhile, unlike Tarfasha, soft ground is also thought to be important to Marsh Daisy who has shown a very determined attitude to win at Ascot and Goodwood while Volume (drawn widest in 17) battled on very bravely from the front to win a ten-furlong listed race at Newbury last month.
These are nice fillies but they too have something to find, I believe, to trouble the improving, Classic-winning selection.