The first day of the Epsom Derby Festival sees the three-year-old fillies face off in the Oaks, with a standout contender emerging in the Antepost betting.
Santa Barbara saw her price slashed down to 5/1 for the contest (as well as 5/2 for the 1000 Guineas) after a glowing report from trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Speaking to At The Races, the Ballydoyle Stables trainer stated: “She’s done unbelievably well in physical terms over the winter months. She looks like a five-year-old colt.
“She goes through her work unbelievably well. She shows loads of speed and works with an awful lot of class.”
The exciting filly is half-sister to dual Group 1 victor Iridessa and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia, and she won on her sole start back in September.
Jockey Seamie Heffernan sang his praises of the three-year-old after her Maiden success at the Curragh, saying “Santa Barbara could be the best out of the family, I won on both of her siblings. She’s top of my ratings.”
O’Brien holds a handful of talented fillies that could well compete here, including exciting prospect Queen’s Speech (20/1) and the improving Joan Of Arc (33/1).
The Irish trainer has won this race four times in the last seven years, so there will be high expectations from his yard here once again.Love was an emphatic winner of the 2020 Oaks under Ryan Moore [Credit: Racing TV]
British heavyweight John Gosden has won the other three in that time and he holds a serious contender in the form of Indigo Girl.
Currently second favourite in the betting at 16/1, the talented filly looks made for the middle distances after claiming success in the May Hill Stakes last season.
Gosden’s prospect was unfortunate to lose her unbeaten status on her last outing, shown hints of her inexperience when finishing second in the Fillies’ Mile.
It was the imposing Pretty Gorgeous that won that contest, and she could continue to improve as a three-year-old.
Joseph O’Brien couldn’t hold back his enthusiasm for his filly after her success at Newmarket, saying ‘she is an outstanding physical specimen and from the first day she worked, she’s been impressive at home and hasn’t disappointed here.’
She holds a price of 20/1 currently and has won on three of her five starts, only suffering defeat to Shale (33/1) on both occasions, who is trained by Joseph’s brother, Donnacha.
The daughter of 1000 Guineas winner Homecoming Queen, the filly showcased her potential when winning the Group 3 Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown in August.
She then won her first Group 1 only five weeks later, when keeping on well in the closing stages to win the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh.
Shale is a clear lover of good ground, which could well be the key to her success over the upcoming summer months.
William Haggis’ Sea Empress (25/1) caught the eye when claiming victory in a fillies’ maiden at Newcastle, with runner-up Teona (25/1) going on to win at 1m2f on her next outing for Roger Varian.
An interesting renewal of the Oaks lies in wait for flat racing fans.