Value Bet special: The Oaks
Our Value Bet tipster Ben Linfoot goes through the trials for the Investec Oaks at Epsom and he's backing a filly at 10/1.
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Four fillies from the 1000 Guineas could take part in the Investec Oaks with Moth heading a quartet that also comprises of Snow Queen, Roz and Masalah. At 11/4 Moth is by far the most fancied of the Guineas four but at such a price she represents terrible value. Yes, she's Aidan O'Brien's first string and, yes, she looks sure to improve for the step up in trip, but the fact is she's won one race from four starts and is priced up like an unbeaten, impressive, trial winner. Roz and Masalah have little chance of troubling the judge at Epsom but perhaps Snow Queen is the pick of the Guineas quartet, at the prices at least. The market suggests she'll be O'Brien's third string if she lines up but she showed as much promise as Moth did as far as potential over further goes in the Guineas yet is over six-times the price. The problem is she has previous for running on well without winning and I'm not convinced the 1000 Guineas will prove to be the strongest of form as the season progresses.
Just over an hour after the Guineas, on the same card, Talent won the Pretty Polly Stakes with Madame Defarge a hampered third. At the time it looked like Talent might be Ralph Beckett's number one Oaks filly and this was an impressive win considering she was plenty keen enough in the opening stages. If she can relax early on at Epsom she should have a good chance of staying the Oaks trip but on this evidence that might be a big if. Still, at 16/1 she might represent a bit of value as her price is slightly inflated due to her stablemate occupying favouritism. If you do fancy Talent you have to think Madame Defarge is worth a bet at 25/1 too. She was hampered a couple of times in the Pretty Polly and was running on at the finish. By Derby winner Motivator, there will be hope that she can thrive around Epsom like her sire. My feeling is, though, that the fillies from this trial are slightly below the required standard to win an Oaks.
The Cheshire Oaks was one of the weaker trials as Banoffee beat rivals rated 78, 74 and 76 into second, third and fourth. However, this unbeaten daughter of Hurricane Run was well on top at the line and it would be dangerous to dismiss her chances on the basis of what she beat at Chester. She was going away at the finish and looks sure to thrive over the Oaks distance, while the very fact connections are preparing to stump up the £30,000 supplementary fee suggests they think she'll go there with a live chance. Clearly she's taken them by surprise, as she wasn't entered in the Classic and was sent off at 28/1 for her debut at Newbury in April where she won by over a length from Harbinger Lass (beaten eight lengths more by Banoffee at Chester). That maiden was used by both Eswarah and Dancing Rain as a stepping stone to glory in the Oaks and the 10/1 that Hughie Morrison's filly follows in their hoofprints isn't bad at all. The runner-up in the Cheshire Oaks, Gertrude Versed, comes from a family that do very well at Chester and that was almost her day in the sun but I find it very hard to believe she will reverse form with Banoffee in the Oaks.
Undoubtedly, Secret Gesture was the most impressive filly seen out in all of the Oaks trials. She beat a decent, albeit keen, 93-rated rival in Miss You Too at Lingfield and she beat her by ten lengths hard-held. She travelled and quickened and looks to have all the balance and class necessary to win an Oaks. Trainer Ralph Beckett knows what it takes to win the Classic too after his Look Here landed the prize in 2008 and there are plenty of reasons to believe this filly will come out on top on May 31. She makes the most appeal out of the three at the top of the market and I'd much rather back her than Moth. However, at 5/2 there is no juice in her price whatsoever and if you fancy her you may as well wait until the day itself. If her main rivals make it to the track I can't imagine Secret Gesture will be much shorter than her current odds on race day.
The much-vaunted Liber Nauticus returned to the racetrack in the Musidora at York and though it took her a while to get into top gear she was well on top at the line. Off a muddling pace after perhaps hitting the front too soon, she did what was required. The extra two furlongs in the Oaks looks sure to suit and she has only had two starts so there are positives, but at prices around 7/2 I can only see reasons for taking her on. This was a workmanlike success over a handicapper rated 85 and the bare form suggests she should be a bigger price. She's 7/2 because she's trained by Sir Michael Stoute and owned by Ballymacoll Stud, who are no strangers to Musidora success after Islington's victory in the race 11 years ago. She has plenty of improvement in her, no question, but 7/2 doesn't seem a fair reflection of her chances to me and at that price she's not one for the shortlist.
The only other fillies that look worthy of a mention are Aidan O'Brien's Say and Michael Bell's The Lark. Say's as short as 10/1 and though she's guaranteed to get the trip the fancy prices have gone about her and she no longer represents any value being a thrice-raced winner of a maiden. The Lark is more interesting at 50/1. She wasn't beaten far in the Newbury Oaks trial last week, on that evidence she'll be fine over further and Shirocco Star was beaten in that race last year before going close in the Oaks. However, I'm of the opinion she'll be more of a threat with cut in the ground and, even at 50s, I'd rather wait and assess conditions with her. The obvious one is Secret Gesture who has all the attributes to thrive in this race but as an ante-post wager she makes no appeal as I don't envisage her being much shorter on the day. So, the bet is the filly that needs to be supplemented (barring any late setbacks she looks highly likely to be), BANOFFEE, who looks worth a small interest at double-figure prices. She won a Newbury maiden that has had recent success in the Oaks and I was impressed with her cosy victory in the Cheshire Oaks last time despite the bare form looking pretty weak. Morrison went close last year with the aforementioned Shirocco Star and his unbeaten Banoffee appeals at 10/1, especially with doubts over Moth and Liber Nauticus who are much shorter in the market.
Selections: 1pt win Banoffee in the Oaks at 10/1