Trainer Aidan O’Brien won his fifth Oaks yesterday in the most dramatic circumstances as apparent no-hoper Qualify swooped fast and late to snatch the fillies’ Epsom Classic from the favourite Legatissimo by a short-head.
At 50-1, the joint longest-priced winner since the race’s inception in 1779, Qualify had been beaten more than 40 lengths by Legatissimo in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket last month, but proved a different animal altogether over this longer distance.
O’Brien, who also bred the daughter of Fastnet Rock, was not as surprised as gob-smacked punters by this implausible turnaround in form. “I thought she ran a lovely race in the Irish 1,000 Guineas [10th, 12 days ago] when she was buried in that big field, but nobody was talking about her,” he said. “We always thought she would step up massively over a longer trip, although we weren’t sure about the mile and a half.”
Jockey Colm O’Donoghue has won the Irish Derby on Treasure Beach and Irish Oaks on Bracelet, but the closest he had come to winning an English Classic was when the former was caught on the line by Pour Moi in the Derby four years ago. “She’s always had lots of pace, but I just needed her to switch off and get her on an even keel,” O’Donoghue said, “and she travelled well.”
The plan worked a treat in the end, but only just as Ryan Moore drove the David Wachman-trained Legatissimo into what appeared to be an unassailable lead approaching the last furlong.
Luca Cumani’s Lady Of Dubai fared best of the home contingent in third, one place ahead of another O’Brien runner, Diamondsandrubies.
The big disappointment of the race was the second favourite Crystal Zvezda, who was far too keen for her own good and already beaten by the time the field rounded Tattenham Corner.Reuse content