50-1 Upset In Oaks

She was very impressive when winning the Park Stakes at the Curragh

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Qualify stays on to beat Legatissimo

The muted response from the crowd said it all as Qualify powered her way home to hand Aidan O’Brien a surprise fifth victory at 50-1 in the Investec Oaks at Epsom.

Recent trends have shown that horses sent off at double figures in the mile-and-a-half showpiece should never be discounted, with three of the previous five winners returning at odds of 20-1.

Qualify upheld that trend when coming with a storming late run under Colm O’Donoghue to foil well-supported favourite and 1000 Guineas heroine Legatissimo in her bid to become the first horse since Kazzia in 2002 to complete the Newmarket-Epsom double.

As expected, Star Of Seville set the early pace under William Buick, closely tracked by the eventual winner’s stablemate, Together Forever.

Turning for home Qualify, who finished stone last at Newmarket and 10th in the Irish equivalent, although not beaten that far on the latter occasion, only had three behind her as the race began to reach the business end.

Despite having a wall of horses in front of him, O’Donoghue knew exactly what he had up his sleeve aboard the rank outsider.

Hitting the final quarter of a mile, the David Wachman-trained market leader and Lady Of Dubai, bidding to give the trainer Luca Cumani and jockey Adam Kirby a first win in the race, moved on as they looked to fight out the race between them.

Much to the the delight of the crowd, a second Classic looked to be on for Legatissimo and Ryan Moore as she fought off the challenge of Lady Of Dubai just outside the furlong pole to establish a clear lead.

But as the line came ever closer the petrol gauge started to run close to empty, just as the surge of Qualify, on her first run beyond a mile, was hitting top gear.

And with just yards left to go O’Donoghue produced the Curragh Group Three winner to join Legatissimo before going on to score by a short head.

Aidan O'Brien

Aidan O’Brien – saddled the winner

O’Brien, who last won the race back in 2012 with Was, said: “We always thought she was a very good filly.

“It just took a couple of runs to learn how to ride her as a two-year-old. Joseph (O’Brien) said he was going to ride her stone cold in a Group race at the Curragh one day and she bolted in.

“After that, she went to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and just didn’t get a race. She was off for the winter and the plan was to run in her in the two Guineas (English and Irish) and then come here.

“The run at Newmarket went a bit wrong and she then went to the Curragh. Seamus (Heffernan) rode her stone cold that day and she ran a really good race. No one really noticed her, but she finished off really well in a slowly-run race.

“We knew up to a mile and a quarter she would be a top-class filly, but we weren’t sure about a mile and a half. Colm gave her a peach of a ride today to produce her on the line. It was class.”

Although the victory for owner John Murrell was not his first at Group One level having owned dual Prix de l’Abbaye hero Gentilhombre, it was by far his most significant having only returned to the sport 15 years ago following a hiatus from the game.

Murrell said: “It’s not as much of a shock as you might think, we thought we had a chance and she finished terrific in the Irish Guineas from a long way back.

“She’d been working great at home so we’re not that surprised.

“I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I was with Aidan watching it on the big screen and everything went exactly as he suggested it would. We’re delighted.

“She was very impressive when winning the Park Stakes at the Curragh and that’s what caught my eye. It wasn’t a planned move to come back a few years ago. It was just by accident, but I am glad I did. This is absolutely brilliant. I can’t quite describe how I am feeling at the moment.”

For winning jockey O’Donoghue the victory represented his first Classic success in England, and one that he placed near the top of his achievements in the saddle.

O’Donoghue said: “I’m not surprised, she’s always shown a lot of pace and is a well-balanced filly.

“Because she shows so much pace we were unsure if she’d get the trip, but she saw it out really strong.

“She travelled and she’s well balanced, so even though I was a long way back coming up the straight with a clear run, it’s the winning post that matters.

“I just wanted to keep her on an even keel and not interfere, she came home strong.

“This is obviously a highlight in my career. I’ve been fortunate to ride around the world and have some big winners, but an Oaks is very special.”

Wachman hinted a drop back in distance could now be in order for Legatissimo after feeling she did not quite see out the trip.

He said: “She came there to win her race but she just ran out of petrol and we’ve got no excuses.

“We’ll look to go back to either a mile or a mile and a quarter.

“Ryan said that he didn’t see that happening, but I’m delighted for Colm.”

Newmarket handler Cumani has options regarding trip for Lady Of Dubai.

He said: “She ran a very nice race, but Adam said they kicked a long way out which didn’t help as he had to kick as well.

“We knew the second horse was good, but we don’t know where the winner came from – that’s horse racing.

“It’s debatable whether we go back to 10 furlongs for the Nassau or go for the Irish Oaks.”

After suffering a narrow defeat, Moore was handed a one-day ban for careless riding on June 21.


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