Ylang Ylang can put O’Brien back on top

Aidan O'Brien

Epsom selections Friday 31st May

The opening day at Epsom sees the Oaks as the featured attraction and the meeting will take place on ground that will be much less of a quagmire than might have been feared at the start of the week. The Aidan O’Brien team have come up short in the European classics so far, but that run might well be coming to and end today. I have one for the feature, plus selections for two big handicaps on the card.

Epsom 2.35: Dancing Magic & Koy Koy

A big field for this mile handicap and no doubt there will be a few hard luck stories at the end of this. Trainer Charlie Johnston is mob handed for a race his family have farmed in recent years and I am sure their presence will ensure a truly run race. As such I am looking at two horses who should be able to travel well just off the gallop.

DANCING MAGIC is incredibly still a maiden despite having earned a rating of 106 after finishing third in the Craven last season. However he struggled thereafter in group company as a 3yo and has since had a wind operation and been gelded. This season he looks to be finding his niche as a decent handicapper.

There was much to like about his comeback sixth in the Spring Cup at Newbury last month, travelling well for a long way and appearing to handle the cut in the ground well before lack of race fitness perhaps told late. He build on that to finish second to Percys Lad at Chester last time on quicker ground, but I think he will appreciate a return to a slower surface now. Only rated 95 now he looks off the sort of mark to be able to do damage at this level.

That said William Buick rode Dancing Magic at Chester and gets off the gelding to ride KOY KOY here for George Boughey – a team that matched up to win this race in 2022. The 5yo is a tricky customer who needs delivering at the right time, and probably saw too much daylight at Newmarket over 7f last time.

This horse is best at a mile though and won a Racing League handicap at the trip at Wolverhampton last September. He also handles softish ground pretty well having twice been second at Chester in such conditions and was third at Ayr last year. His good record at Chester bodes well for this track as it is a similar tight, turning track that seems to suit this horse well.

Epsom 3.45: Derry Lad

DERRY LAD made some successful forays to the UK last year and could do so again off a lovely low weight at Epsom today.

This horse does stay further, so it is important there is a true gallop in this contest to bring his stamina into play. However with the likes of Killybegs Warrior, Bolster and Loyal Touch in the race, there should be no hanging about. Derry Lad enjoyed a profitable summer last year with Skybet Series wins at Hamilton and Pontefract (over slightly further) before running third on heavy ground at Haydock over this trip.

He did not really take to hurdling over the winter, but after finishing down the field at Cork last month, he looked to be running nicely into form when a strong finishing third at Naas over just a mile twelve days ago. That should have put him spot on for today and the extra 2f will be much more to his liking.

Epsom 4.30: Ylang Ylang

YLANG YLANG has long looked the ideal type for the Oaks and I am certainly not about to desert her as he big day has arrived.

On a few occasions she has been outpaced on quicker ground before staying on, none more so than in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket where she ended up being beaten only a length. When she got soft ground over the same course and distance in the autumn she was a very game winner of the Fillies Mile and this big step up to 12f promises to bring about a deal of improvement.

This daughter of Frankel is unbeaten when there has been cut in the ground and her dam Shambolic was placed at listed level at this trip, so there are no issues with stamina or going and her style of racing strongly suggests this sort of test will be right up her street.

Recommended bets:

1pt each-way – Dancing Magic – 2.35 Epsom – 10/1 Bet365, Paddy Power

1pt each-way – Koy Koy – 2.35 Epsom – 5/1 Skybet (1/5 odds 1st 6)

1pt each-way – Derry Lad – 3.45 Epsom – 15/2 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 4)

1pt win – Ylang Ylang – 4.30 Epsom – 13/8 general

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