Racing: Ebadiyla to lift Oaks for the Aga

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The Independent Online
It was not just the 11 lengths of daylight between Reams Of Verse and her nearest pursuer in the Musidora Stakes at York last month which persuaded most observers that she would line up for the Oaks at Epsom today with an outstanding chance of success. It was also the look on Kieren Fallon's face as he reflected on the performance a few minutes later, and an earlier gallop which he said had excited him more than any piece of work on any horse since his arrival as first jockey to Henry Cecil at Warren Place.

Fallon has seen enough troughs in his career to keep a sense of perspective about easy winners in Classic trials, but he could not hide the rich dose of astonishment and anticipation which Reams Of Verse had administered. Britain's punters soon felt it too, and though Ladbrokes offered 7-4 for the Oaks for the remainder of the day, the filly's price for the Classic quickly shrank to the odds-on at which she will surely start today.

Yet, once the euphoria had subsided, one fact remained which those with a fortune riding on Reams Of Verse might prefer to ignore. Pedigrees often obscure as much as they reveal, and Reams Of Verse certainly did not appear to be stopping at the end of the Musidora's extended 10 furlongs, but her sire, Nureyev, never raced beyond a mile, and the average distance over which his offspring win (and there are enough of them to make the figure valid) is just 7.6 furlongs. As John Oxx, who takes her on with Ebadiyla, said yesterday: "She's a worthy favourite and if she gets the trip you have to think she'll win, but on pedigree there must be doubts that she'll stay."

Those doubts are serious enough to deter sensible punters from getting involved at odds-on, and the only plans worth pursuing are to sit the race out, or to find an each-way alternative. The British-trained rivals to Reams Of Verse, including Yashmak her stable-mate, who beat a poor field at Newbury last time, do not have the form or potential to win even a sub-standard Oaks, but Oxx's runner, the first to carry the Aga Khan's colours in a British Classic since his Aliysa was disqualified from this event eight years ago, could prove to be another matter.

Ebadiyla has run just twice, but her lack of experience need not be discouraging, since User Friendly had a similar record before her Oaks success five years ago. Ebadiyla did particularly well to finish third, beaten two short-heads, in an unusually good renewal of the Derby Trial at Leopardstown last month. "She was a bit green that day," Oxx says, "but when she got going she finished very strongly and we were very happy with her. It was a competitive, well-run race at a distance short of her best, and we think she's improved quite a lot since then."

Unlike Reams Of Verse, Ebadiyla (4.00) seems certain to appreciate today's step up in trip - her dam won two Listed events for Oxx over 12 furlongs - and at early odds of 10-1 in a disappointing assortment of fillies, she deserves each-way support.

The field for the Derby was also finalised yesterday and Stowaway and Grapeshot failed to make it to the last declaration stage. Entrepreneur will start from stall 13, but even though punters are prone to superstition - and, more importantly, many jockeys prefer to start from a low stall - he still seems sure to set off at odds-on tomorrow.

DERBY DECLARATIONS AND DRAW: Benny The Dip (8), Bold Demand (2), Cloudings (14), Crystal Hearted (9), Entrepreneur (13), Fahris (10), Musalsal (6), Papua (11), Romanov (7), Silver Patriarch (5), Single Empire (4), Symonds Inn (1), Tanaasa (12), The Fly (3). 14 declared.


Horse C H L T

Reams Of Verse 4-6 8-13 4-5 4-6

Yashmak 9-2 11-2 9-2 9-2

Crown Of Light 10-1 9-1 9-1 10-1

Ebadiyla 10-1 10-1 8-1 10-1

Siyadah 10-1 10-1 8-1 8-1

Ukraine Venture 22-1 25-1 25-1 20-1

Attitre 40-1 40-1 40-1 33-1

Book At Bedtime 33-1 28-1 33-1 40-1

Gazelle Royale 40-1 28-1 28-1 33-1

Bint Baladee 50-1 66-1 66-1 66-1

Etoile 50-1 66-1 66-1 66-1

Imperial Scholar 150-1 200-1 200-1 200-1

Each-way a quarter the odds, places 1, 2, 3

C - Coral, H - William Hill, L - Ladbrokes, T - Tote