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Taghrooda and Tarfasha form powerful Oaks team for leading owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum

Updated: Thursday, 05 Jun 2014 16:56 | Comments

Taghrooda achieved a wide-margin victory in the Pretty Polly Stakes despite slow early fractions at Newmarket
Taghrooda achieved a wide-margin victory in the Pretty Polly Stakes despite slow early fractions at Newmarket

It is nearly five years since Awzaan gave owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum his last Group One win in Britain but he has two major chances in tomorrow's Investec Oaks, with Taghrooda and Tarfasha both carrying his familiar blue and while silks at Epsom.

The John Gosden-trained Taghrooda shot to the head of the betting for the Classic after a thoroughly dominant display in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on just her second start.

Unfortunately for the daughter of Sea The Stars that form has been repeatedly let down, but she could hardly have won any easier.

Over in Ireland Dermot Weld's Tarfasha claimed the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas, a race in which 2012 winner Was met with defeat before springing a Classic surprise, but the team are praying the weather forecast is correct and the rain that is forecast hits Epsom after the race.

The owner's racing manager Angus Gold said: "We hope the forecast is correct for Tarfasha, she needs good ground but is going the right way.

"She's a nice staying filly in the making.

"As for Taghrooda, everyone has crabbed the form and of course you'd love to see it work out but it doesn't mean she's not progressive. Sometimes the style (of victory) is more important.

"Whether she is good enough we will see, but she's potentially a very nice mile-and-a-half filly."

Weld said of Tarfasha: "She's a lovely filly, she's very balanced with a good action. Hopefully she can make it all the way to the top in time.

"I don't think stamina will be a problem, or the track. She won easy in Galway as a two-year-old, she handled the hill and came round the bend well. She's progressive."

Gosden has never won the Oaks, but Taghrooda looks to present him with his best chance of doing so to date.

"She is a very nice filly. People are quite correct to question the form (of her six-length win in the Pretty Polly). I think the second (Jordan Princess) is a decent filly but she didn't handle the testing ground next time at Goodwood and the third filly is pretty moody and did not run great in a Newbury trial.

"You win by six lengths and it is not your fault if the others do not go on.

"I feel the step up in trip will help her. However, I think the Oaks is a race with great depth, whereas Australia showed form way ahead of anything else in the Guineas for the Derby.

"Taghrooda's form ties in very nicely with the filly (Marsh Daisy) who won the Height of Fashion Stakes (at Goodwood)."

Taghrooda is disputing favouritism with Aidan O'Brien's Marvellous, a relatively unconsidered filly until shooting clear to win the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh in heavy ground.

That performance suggested she would have no trouble with an extra half mile, but there are mixed messages from her pedigree, being by Galileo out of a Cherry Hinton winner.

"There's a lot of speed in Marvellous' pedigree, but she's by Galileo and they stay well," said O'Brien.

Joseph O'Brien overlooked Marvellous at the Curragh but is back on board at Epsom.

He said: "She won well in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, you'd imagine she'd get a mile and a half.

"It was very heavy ground and she looked to go to the line well. Hopefully she'll handle the better ground and get the mile and a half, she's in with a fighting chance."

Ralph Beckett saddled a famous one-two 12 months ago when Talent led home stablemate Secret Gesture, and is double-handed again after supplementing Lingfield Trial winner Honor Bound.

"Honor Bound has surprised us all. I was only hoping for black type at Lingfield," said Beckett.

"She doesn't work well at home and you wouldn't spot her in a crowd. But she's got the pedigree for it. She's a half-sister to Treasure Beach, who never won by too far, and he crept through the ranks like her.

"Whether she's capable of winning an Oaks is another question, but she deserves her chance.

"I was pleased with Regardez when she was third in the Musidora, where she came off a slow pace, looked like she was going to drop back and then ran on. I was doubtful whether she'd stay before that. Richard (Kingscote) won on her last year and his style of riding will suit her."

David Simcock also has two runners in Madame Chiang, winner of the Musidora Stakes at York, and Momentus, who was third at Lingfield.

Simcock took Madame Chiang to Epsom for the Breakfast with the Stars morning and was happy with how she handled the track under William Buick.

"William said that coming down the hill she switched on to the right leg straight away and it is very pleasing. It was only a routine canter but all worked out very well," said Simcock.

"That was the first time William had sat on her. Kieren (Fallon) would have ridden her but he is on Ihtimal. We were looking for a suitable replacement and it was as much Kirsten's (owner Kirsten Rausing) decision as mine to put William on.

"Madame Chiang has a great attitude, nothing really fazes her and she will stay very, very well.

"She is very likeable and has got a great pick-up. She does not do anything particularly quickly, but she gets there.

"Momentus has got quite an ambitious owner and last year he had Miss You Too, who finished sixth. She is not a bad filly but would prefer faster ground. She is probably quicker than Madame Chiang but on this ground Madame Chiang would have the better chance."

Another supplemented filly is Hughie Morrison's Marsh Daisy, impressive at Goodwood in the Height of Fashion.

"Everything has gone well with Marsh Daisy. It's a big decision to supplement but in reality if a horse has won a trial and is in good form, you take your chance," said Morrison.

"The owner felt that you don't get many chances to have a Classic runner and I think it was the right decision to supplement.

"It's always a surprise when a filly progresses like she has, because we haven't done a lot with her. The only serious work she has done has been on the racecourse.

"I think it's an open race, but Marvellous has every right to be favourite because she looks as if she will stay. She's by Galileo from a wonderful family and I'm surprised she isn't 7-4.

"Of the others, we have all done well in trials. Taghrooda was impressive and I know they think a lot of her.

"You don't win a Musidora (Madame Chiang) and not have a chance, but you don't have to win a trial to win because fillies change so much. I think it's a strong race this year because we've had such a mild spring and a lot of fillies have come to hand earlier than normal."

Kieren Fallon replaces Silvestre de Sousa on the Saeed bin Suroor-trained Ihtimal, who was a fine third behind Miss France in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Bin Suroor said: "She won the Oaks and and UAE Guineas in Dubai, she's tough. Since she came back to England she's done really well physically and improved. She was third in the Guineas, she's been working really well, she's ready to go now and I'm happy with her.

"She has a big engine and is easy to train. Every morning she shows her class the way she works. She makes it easy for the jockey as she never pulls or fights, she relaxes so she can be put in any position in the race.

"I think Epsom will be fine for her and we're looking for a good run."

Ed Dunlop has had a low-key start to the season with several horses under the weather but he has been happy with Amazing Maria, who showed plenty of promise last season.

Dunlop has done well with fillies, so the fact she is making her seasonal debut in this is noteworthy and she may outrun her odds.

"She is a pretty good filly and it is a question of whether she stays a mile and a half. I think she is classy enough to win the Oaks, she will handle the track I hope and will like the ground if it is soft," he said.

"The doubt is the trip. I am pretty confident she will get a mile and a quarter, whether she will get a mile and a half, I don't know.

"The health of the horses is the main thing - we have been lost in the jungle. We don't know what it was and there were no outward signs of it.

"They were not coughing, did not have dirty noses and their blood profiles were normal, but they scoped dirty. We backed off with the horses and treated them. Patience has been the key as they are now well again."

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