Four To Follow: Lion On The Run – Epsom Oaks Special

It’s the biggest two days of the flat season as the racing public descend on the Surrey Downs of Epsom. Day One sees two group ones, including the Betfred Oaks which could end up being the form race for the year. Here’s four of the Best Bets from Friday’s meeting.

2:35 – Racehorse Lotto Handicap – Fantastic Fox @ 6/1

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Everything looks in his favour today. He should have his ground, he’s stepping down in trip back to his favoured mile, and he has a great jockey aboard to overcome a wide draw. His mark is five pounds lower than it was when he came third in last year’s race, and it’s a pound lower than his previous winning mark too. The only slight negative is that he is a Roger Varian horse, but the tide does look to be turning after he had a decent showing at Brighton on Tuesday. Fantastic Fox hasn’t won since he was a three-year-old, but he is due one, and this looks like the perfect race to break his duck.

Austrian Theory is a good each-way price at 17/2, after his third at Chester last week. Charlie Johnston has a runner in the Derby and this could kick start a good week on the Downs for the Middleham trainer. Austrian Theory has had three runs already, but is stepping up to his best, after a good third at Chester, which could be a good prep for Epsom to handle the twists and turns. He’s on a good mark and the ground should be near perfect for him to challenge the top three.

3:10 – DahlBury Coronation Cup (Group One) – Emily Upjohn @ 5/2

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Emily Upjohn, should, be favourite. Both Westover and she handled Epsom really well, but Emily Upjohn was the one to take out of last year’s Oaks. She didn’t follow up in the King George at Ascot, but finished on a high last term. With a slight allowance it puts her on terms with Westover and Frankie is going to be fired up at his last Derby meeting. It’s a small field so an inside draw won’t matter too much, and she’s backable at the price she is.

Little word on the outsider Tunnes, the German raider. His rating puts him on terms with Hurricane Lane, who has had a sketchy start to the season. Reading his form, he is a Group One German winner by 10 lengths. The ground may be a little firm, but surely his hat has to be thrown into the mix. Remember what happened with Torquator Tasso in the 2021 Arc?

3:45 – Betfred Handicap – Marhba The Champ @ 9/2

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William Buick takes the ride on the Kevin Ryan colt, and passes up the ride on Godolphin’s Honiton. He managed to fend off Marie’s Diamond at York, and has only been raised a lenient 2lbs. He holds a decent draw, and Ryan has put a tongue strap on him for the first timeHis performance at York was one of the best handicap performances of the week, and he can replicate it here too.

Masekela has been thrown into this handicap, and seems to have been looked over. Fourth in last year’s Derby, handled the track well and his handicap rating has dropped below 100 for the first time. The ground will be in his favour and it’s a pairing we have seen before, Oisin Murphy and Andrew Balding. He will have to overcome a slight disadvantage with the draw, but it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. An each-way price of 11/1 isn’t bad either.


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Let’s start with the top two in the market. Savethelastdance was ultra-impressive at Chester, but what did she beat? None of the horses were bothered in catching her and she cantered to win by 22 lengths, in bottomless ground. It was the same ground for her maiden win at Leopardstown. She also lacks the experience for me. I don’t think three runs in a horses’ lifetime can prepare you enough for the challenge of Epsom.

Soul Sister also falls into that category of lack of experience, although her win at York was better than Savethelastdances’ at Chester. She beat an experienced filly in Novakai and ran on well after the finish line. It’s also a question of how quickly can the horse be turned around, as York was only two weeks’ ago. The other thing is the breeding. She’s by Frankel, who as a sire, has only managed won Epsom Oaks winner out of the vast progeny he has had.

This led me to Running Lion. Roaring Lion has a select but quality progeny, and has had a successful May in terms of winners. Running Lion won really well at Newmarket when we last saw her, but there is a question of stepping up in trip. But her pedigree shows that she is related to Cozone, who stayed two miles, and was out of Bella Nouf, which is Running Lion’s sire. This tells me there is staying power within the family, and she can prove it today. She has plenty of experience under her belt, and hasn’t been over-raced either. This has feels like a target for her and she can triumph over her stablemate, and the short-priced favourite.

The very best of luck on Oaks Day!

All prices are from Betfred, official sponsor of the Epsom Oaks and Derby

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