Lanigan plants a Classic acorn with Meeznah

The Oaks, to be run for the 232nd time tomorrow, is actually the senior of the two Classics at Epsom, having been founded the year before the Derby. And indeed, the filly-only contest provided the pattern for the race that ultimately became the world's most famous, for four Derbys were run before its distance was extended from a mile to the 12 furlongs that had always been the Oaks trip.

But as far as the ability of the protagonists is concerned, the distaff event is the junior partner. The female of the thoroughbred species has long been recognised as largely less deadly than the male; even Pretty Polly, the best of them all, could not be ranked in the top 50 of all-time talent when measured against males.

Pretty Polly, winner of 22 of her 24 races, won her Oaks back in 1904 and was, uniquely for a filly, the best racehorse of her year at two, three and four. But for an Oaks winner to be judged better than the Derby winner of the same season is a rarity; since Pretty Polly proved herself superior to St Amant, only seven could come under consideration (even in mathematical ratings there is a degree of subjectivity) to have followed in her hoofprints.

On the eve of the ultimate single-sex prize for fillies, these amazons deserve to be named, in chronological order Rockfel (better than Bois Roussel in 1938), Godiva (Pont l'Eveque, 1940); Sun Chariot (Watling Street, 1942), Petite Etoile (Parthia, 1959), Pawneese (Empery 1976), Balanchine (Shaamit 1994) and, most recently, Ouija Board, who had North Light behind her when they met in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe six years ago.

Fifteen are due to try for their place in the pantheon tomorrow. The favourite Aviate is trained by the man with the outstanding modern record in the race. Henry Cecil, with eight Oaks to his credit, also fields Timepiece and if either were to prevail, it would make him the second most successful trainer ever in the event, after Robert Robson, who sent out a dozen winners between 1802 and 1825.

In contrast, Cecil's former assistant David Lanigan, who helped the Warren Place maestro with the preparation of 2007 heroine Light Shift, will have not only his first Oaks runner, but his first runner in any Classic, in Meeznah, who earned her place in the spotlight by winning her maiden by nine lengths at Newmarket last month.

Lanigan, who set up on his own in Newmarket two years ago, is relishing the ambitious venture. "The plan was to go down a more conventional route, a maiden and then one of the trials," he said yesterday, "but our hand was rather forced when she bruised a foot early in the spring and it took longer to clear than we had anticipated.

"I did expect her to win at Newmarket, but she did it rather more comfortably than we had imagined, so we'll give her the chance in the big one. We've always thought a lot of her – she is a good, big, strong, scopey filly – and she did a piece of work last week that was very encouraging."

Meeznah is one of the outsiders, at 33-1. But the gamble in recent days has been on the once-raced Sajjhaa, now jostling Rumoush for second favouritism. One difference is that Sajjhaa, who won on her debut 14 days ago by seven lengths, is trained by a man with previous, Michael Jarvis, who scored with the almost-as-inexperienced Eswarah five years ago.

Victory for Cecil would be some compensation for the loss of the 1,000 Guineas after the disqualification of Jacqueline Quest, and for Marcus Tregoning, handler of Rumoush, a similar salve after the galling 2,000 Guineas success of Makfi, a cast-off from his stable.

And for Barry Hills, should Champagnelifestyle triumph, it would be the end of 38 years of Epsom hurt. The veteran trainer has neither a Derby nor an Oaks to his credit, despite some near misses, notably with Rheingold and Hawaiian Sound in the colts' race and Dibidale, Slightly Dangerous and, last year, High Heeled in the fillies'. Tomorrow will be his 36th shot at the Oaks.

In the card's other Grade One showpiece, the 10-runner Coronation Cup, last year's Derby and Oaks form are represented by Fame And Glory, runner-up to Sea The Stars in the former, and Sariska, winner of the latter.

Johnny Murtagh has been confirmed as rider of Saturday's Derby favourite Jan Vermeer, with Colm O'Donoghue on the Ballydoyle second string Midas Touch and Seamie Heffernan on the pacemaker At First Sight. The yard's Dante Stakes winner Cape Blanco will join Viscount Nelson in the Prix du Jockey-Club on Sunday.

Turf account

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Sharedah (2.20 Lingfield) An opportunity looks to have been found for the Pivotal half-sister to Maraahel, a promising third on her debut three weeks ago despite a slow start, to add to her paddock value.

Next best

Newbury Street (2.40 Hamilton) Already a winner in this grade and races off the same mark as for his narrow victory two weeks ago, when he seemed to have a little in hand.

One to watch

High Ransom (M A Jarvis) Produced her best effort over 12 furlongs at Chepstow on Monday and should pay her way in middle-distance handicaps.

Where the money's going

Versatile Rite Of Passage, third in last year's Cheltenham Festival Bumper and the winner of the Irish November Handicap and four hurdle races, was cut yesterday for the Ascot Gold Cup, from 20-1 to 14-1 with Paddy Power.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Lady Eclair (4.40 Hamilton)

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam