Qatar Racing will bid to win a second classic in less than a week after recently acquiring a half-interest Investec Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) favorite Secret Gesture.
Bookmaker Coral has tabbed the Galileo filly the 9-4 favorite in the competitive field of 11 for the £426,250 Oaks, at 1 1/2 miles May 31 as the highlight of Epsom's Ladies' Day program.
Led by Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, Qatar Racing enjoyed a victory in the Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) with Just The Judge May 26 at the Curragh. The operation looks poised to add another classic after buying into Newsells Park Stud's Secret Gesture following her visually impressive 10-length triumph as the even-money favorite in the Betfred the Bonus King Oaks Trial May 11 at Lingfield in her first start of 2013.
Ridden by Jim Crowley for trainer Ralph Beckett at Lingfield, the bay filly defeated Miss You Too in the Oaks Trial, and the David Simcock-trained filly re-opposes at Epsom at 66-1 odds.
"I think she probably beat trees in her trial but all she could do was win in the style that she did," Qatar Racing's bloodstock agent David Redvers told England's Press Association after Secret Gesture won the Oaks trial for her second victory from three career starts. "What she did show was that she handled the track beautifully and is the right sort of filly for Epsom. She is with a trainer who knows how to win the Oaks."
While Jamie Spencer is the rider of first call for Qatar Racing, Crowley will retain the mount on Secret Gesture in the Oaks. The filly could provide Beckett a second Oaks win following Look Here in 2008.
Beckett also sends out Talent (14-1), a New Approach filly who stayed on strongly to capture the Pretty Polly Stakes May 5 at Newmarket, her second win from three career starts.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien will shoot for a fifth Oaks win with a pair of Galileo fillies: 3-1 second favorite Moth, who was third in the QIPCO One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) May 5 at Newmarket, and impressive Cork maiden winner Say (10-1). O'Brien won with Was last year and with Alexandrova (2006), Imagine (2001), and Shahtoush (1998).
Liber Nauticus (100-30) will try to emulate Fair Salinia and Unite, who captured the Oaks for trainer Sir Michael Stoute in 1978 and 1987, respectively. The Azamour filly won the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes (Eng-III) by 1 1/2 lengths May 15 at York.
Trainer Hughie Morrison's Banoffee (8/1), by Hurricane Run, was supplemented at a cost of £30,000 after a 1 1/4-length length win over trainer John Gosden's Oaks entrant Gertrude Versed (33-1), by Manduro, in the Cheshire Oaks on May 8.
Trainer Michael Bell will send out maiden winners Madame Defarge (20-1) and The Lark (25-1), who are both stakes-placed this year. Bell's Sariska denied Midday by a head in the 2009 edition of the Oaks.
By Motivator, Madame Defarge was third behind Talent in the Pretty Polly.
The Lark, a Pivotal filly, was third in the Swettenham Stud Fillies' Trial Stakes May 17 at Newbury.
Trainer Harry Dunlop's Roz (50-1), a Teofilo filly who finished second in the Shadwell Fillies' Mile (Eng-I) last September, rounds out the field.