Horse Racing: Balding runner looks too big in the Oaks

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RACING fan Graeme Johnston (@GraemeJ_83) picks out his best bets from Friday’s racing at Epsom.

15:10 Epsom | Coronation Cup | ITV1

The Coronation Cup is the first domestic mile-and-a-half Group 1 of the season and this looks a very good renewal. A slightly larger field than we usually get and there is one in here that I like at a price that may come as a surprise.

On fast ground over this distance Highland Reel (7/4 888) is one of the best around and if the sun comes out he’s the one to beat. However, if there is any juice in the ground he becomes vulnerable. I like him a lot but at the odds, and with a slight doubt over the ground, I’m prepared to swerve him.

Journey (5/1 Paddy Power) ended the season a Group 1 winner and she is one of the top, older fillies around. This is her seasonal debut and connections have indicated that she will improve significantly for the race. At her best she is competitive, however against the colts first time out, she has her work cut out.

The one I like here is Aidan O’Brien’s perceived third string US Army Ranger (14/1 BetVictor). Always highly regarded, he won his first two starts before running his best race so far when second in the Derby last season.

Since then he has been disappointing but I can see reasons for backing him on Friday. He likes the course, is fit and this is likely to be his target for the season. He doesn’t do things quickly and I think the long straight here suit so I’ve backed him each-way.

16:30 Epsom | The Oaks | ITV

The Oaks is the highlight of the day and unsurprisingly sees another Aidan O’Brien runner favourite to add to his haul of classics. I think this race looks a lot closer than the betting suggests and there are a few at big prices that interest.

Rhododendron (10/11 SkyBet) was a beaten favourite in the 1000 Guineas last time out and looks like the extra distance should suit here. A Group 1 winner at two, she has the best form on offer, will be effective on the ground and should have the pace to be tactically versatile.

Despite the positives, this is a big step up in trip and I won’t be backing her at odds-on against rivals who look to have less questions to answer in terms of stamina.

Sobetsu (9/1 Bet365) was well beaten behind Rhododendron in the Fillies Mile last season but when she returned to action in May won a Deauville Group 1. She seems to need a bit of juice in the ground, which she should get here and the extra two furlongs should suit.

The stable is going well and I think she is one of the more likely winners.

Enable (7/1 Betfair) won the Chester Oaks over just short of a mile-and-a-half and she is clearly blessed with a lot of stamina. Frankie Dettori has chosen to ride her from his choice of two from the yard and everything looks in place for a big run here.

If allowed to dominate, she could pinch this from the front but I’m of the opinion she’s playing for places here.

The one I’ve backed is the Andrew Balding-trained Horseplay (18/1 Paddy Power). She won her maiden by an incredible 13 lengths on soft ground last season and returned this year with a battling performance to win the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket.

Though she has to step up on that to win this, I have a feeling she will come on leaps and bounds for that return. If the rain comes it should help and at huge odds she is a great each way-bet.

Best Bets

15:10 Epsom – US Army Ranger (14/1 each-way BetVictor)

16:30 Epsom – Horseplay (18/1 each-way Paddy Power)

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About Author

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I grew up watching Hearts games with my dad and playing football at every opportunity so betting on it was the logical next step! Football coupons became a Saturday ritual and it introduced me into the world of horse racing. I started watching it on a regular basis, and after Galileo's Derby win in 2001 I was hooked. I follow both flat and national hunt racing attending the northern meetings when possible.

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