Murtagh prepared for moment of Truth

Classic O'Brien campaign can bring rewards against more exposed rivals in Oaks
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The Independent Online

In contrast to the Derby, which will tomorrow be contested by eight fancied colts from Ireland and five long shots trained on home soil, betting on the Investec Oaks this afternoon is dominated by British fillies. Even so, there are sufficient doubts about them all, at the odds, to suggest that the best value again concerns the two Irish raiders – Perfect Truth, stabled alongside no fewer than six Derby colts at Ballydoyle, and Oh Goodness Me.

Sariska admittedly looks a legitimate favourite, though perhaps her most striking performance came on the occasion of her sole defeat. That was on her reappearance at Newbury, where she lost all chance breaking slowly but ended up carting herself on to the heels of the protagonists over just seven furlongs.

In the process, however, she confirmed herself very comfortable in soft going. Having in the meantime beaten an average lot in the Musidora Stakes, over an extended 10 furlongs at York, she has coped competently with quicker conditions, albeit over level ground. But she may find running downhill today a different proposition, unless rain intervenes. Moreover while there is stamina on one side of her family tree, the odds very much assume improvement for the extra two furlongs.

Rainbow View was the outstanding filly of her generation last year, but proved laboured on firm ground when odds-on for the 1,000 Guineas last month. You can make a feasible case for her lasting the extra half-mile, but when on song she had never previously looked the type and, without rain, she may also be inhibited by Tattenham Hill. At least both these fillies have a convincing aura of class. Midday, in contrast, looked pretty ordinary when beaten by the humdrum colt Debussy here in the spring. She could not have made a better job of proving her comfort over a similar course in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, but the opposition and time were both pedestrian. Even in the hands of an all-time Oaks master in Henry Cecil, she demands a leap of faith. Remember that she is likely to face a more searching gallop this time, and is a daughter of the sprinter Oasis Dream.

Everyone expects a fast pace to be set by Perfect Truth, because she produced an improved performance ridden that way in the Cheshire Oaks. But she actually went off much too fast that day, and so disguised the extent of her progress for a first crack at this kind of distance. Certainly, she was faltering inside the closing stages, rather than succumbing to the perceived acceleration of another filly who went into that race as a maiden, Phillipina. Having been rousted clear round the tight bends, Perfect Truth ultimately scrambled home by a short head. Johnny Murtagh may well ride her somewhat more conservatively this time, so long as he is satisfied that the others are providing a sufficient test.

The big clue to Perfect Truth's chance comes from Peeping Fawn, who finished second here two years ago for the same stable after herself looking nothing out of the ordinary that spring. Indeed, she had been beaten in three maidens before suddenly blossoming and subsequently went unbeaten in four Group Ones.

That kind of thing should no longer surprise us about O'Brien, who increasingly allows middle-distance three-year-olds to find their way race by race. Perfect Truth (4.05) has not yet shown the lustre of Rainbow View or Sariska, but at 10-1 looks infinitely better value each-way.

O'Brien's mentor, Jim Bolger, has trained several superbly tough fillies over the years and, as a daughter of Galileo, the battle-hardened Oh Goodness Me could make radical improvement for this step up in distance. She plugged on through the mud for third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, and while Bolger is wary about faster ground, there is not enough evidence to discourage backers at 14-1.

Best value among the home team could be Wadaat, unsighted behind Midday at Lingfield but apparently transformed when forcing a photo in the Italian Oaks. That was only her fifth start, and her trainer is predictably confident of getting involved.

Last year's winner, Look Here, makes her reappearance in the Investec Coronation Cup over the same course but must raise her game against colts first time out. Youmzain is the class act, but the manner of his defeat in this race last year reiterated the way he needs the cards to fall right. Duncan (2.45) must improve but he has been doing just that since joining John Gosden, including when proving himself very much at home round here at the spring meeting.

Sweet Lightning (3.25) caught the eye behind Duncan that day, while Confront (1.40) looks the most solid wager on the card, not needing the improvement that still seems likely.

Chris McGrath

Nap: Confront (1.40 Epsom)

NB: Sam's Cross (8.55 Goodwood)

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