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Rhododendron heads 54 entries for Investec Oaks

13 Apr 2017

Fillies' Mile winner among a dozen entries in the Epsom Classic for Aidan O'Brien

Rhododendron

Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden are responsible for a third of the 54 entries that have been revealed for the Investec Oaks at Epsom on June 2.

O’Brien has a dozen engaged in the the third Classic of the season, which forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, while Gosden has six to shuffle.

The past two runnings of the £500,000 showpiece have been won by O’Brien-trained runners – Minding (2016) and Qualify (2015) – and he is seeking to land seventh win in it.

Heading the Ballydoyle contingent is Rhododendron, a daughter of Galileo who signed off last year by winning the Group 1 Dubai Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket.

Another of his leading contenders is Hydrangea. She too is a daughter of Galileo and finished second to Rhododendron in the Dubai Fillies’ Mile. Hydrangea was triumphant on her reappearance at Leopardstown on this month.

Gosden, who won the Oaks in 2014 with Taghrooda, has another strong hand. The pick of his entries at this stage looks to be unbeaten Dubawi grey Coronet, successful in the ten-furlong Listed Zetland Stakes at Newmarket last year.

Astronomy’s Choice, Enable, Shutter Speed and Precious Ramots were all maiden scorers on their only starts last year. Shutter Speed was among our Dark Horses to watch out for in 2017.

Eight Investec Oaks entries are in the ownership of Godolphin, but their principal hope, Wuheida, has been ruled out by injury.

There could also be a rare US-trained runner in the shape of Daddys Lil Darling, trained by Kenny McPeek. The Scat Daddy filly landed the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs in September and rounded off her 2016 campaign with a good fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita, both on a dirt surface.

She has already made an appearance in Grade 1 company this season, when a staying-on half-length runner-up in the Ashland Stakes over an extended mile on dirt at Keeneland on April 8.