Even the weather might not stop Savethelastdance in Epsom Oaks

Aidan O’Brien chasing an 11th victory in fillies classic with three Oaks starters

Aidan O’Brien saddles the hot favourite for Friday’s Betfred Oaks, Savethelastdance, although a warning about taking too much for granted is contained in her family history.

It is six years since Savethelastdance’s dam, Daddys Lil Darling, was supposed to be a rare US trained runner in the fillies classic, which that year was ultimately won by Enable.

In freakish circumstances, however, the American raider was spooked by a thunderstorm that hit Epsom minutes before the start. A startled Daddys Lil Darling careered out of control, forcing her jockey, Oliver Peslier, to bale-out, and the transatlantic raid ended in withdrawal.

The mare’s first foal is now widely expected to put that right following a spectacular trial victory at Chester last month, when Savethelastdance won by 22 lengths.


If that was a National Hunt-type winning margin, the ground conditions at Chester made for a National Hunt-type test.

Opposition to the likely “hotpot” will pin their hopes on a very different surface around Epsom proving to be too awkward a proposition for the principal hope among O’Brien’s three-pronged attack at a potential 11th Oaks success.

Perhaps the only shorter odds in a race that kicks off a period containing a trio of major European classics in three days is that either O’Brien or the John Gosden team will win it.

Between them they have landed the last nine Oaks renewals and bookmakers reckon the Englishman saddles the two biggest threats to Savethelastdance.

Frankie Dettori, on the verge of his final Epsom classics, as well as Sunday’s French Derby, teams up with the surprise Musidora winner Soul Sister.

Oisin Murphy is on board the unbeaten Running Lion, who impressed in Newmarket’s Pretty Polly.

They could face quite a task however as pinning hopes on fast ground undercutting Savethelastdance’s chance ignores how she might relish it on pedigree.

“Most Galileos that we have always wanted good ground and they wouldn’t be soft-ground horses at all. And with having Scat Daddy in her bloodline too you’d say she should suit it – it will be interesting to see,” O’Brien said.

“It was very unusual what she did [at Chester] and I think everyone would have to say that. Visually a race can look one way but when everyone delves into it with the times it can be the opposite of what it looked like. But I think the times showed that she was very impressive,” he added.

All things being equal though – including the climate -, Savethelastdance shapes as a likely winner.

The first Group One of a hugely significant period that will see O’Brien try to land a ninth Epsom Derby on Saturday, as well as relying on Continuous in Sunday’s Prix du Jockey Club, is Friday’s Dahlbury Coronation Cup.

Ireland’s champion trainer holds a record eight victories in the older horse feature and relies on Point Lonsdale, who is chasing a first top-flight career success.

He faces a trio of top-class rivals though in Hurricane Lane, Emily Upjohn and last year’s Irish Derby hero Westover.

The German raider, Tunnes, a brother of the Arc winner Torquator Tasso, is no back number either if handling the ground.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column