Yorkshire Oaks preview: Enable can end on a high in Britain

The Yorkshire Oaks boasts a roll of honour featuring some of the best fillies and mares of recent times, including Enable and Sea of Class, the last two winners who went on to fight out a thrilling finish to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2018.

Sadly, we never got to see the rematch – Sea of Class had to be put down recently after suffering a bout of colic – but there is still plenty to look forward to with Enable, who will record the tenth Group 1 success of a remarkable career if regaining her Yorkshire Oaks crown on Thursday.

Enable winning the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes (Group 1)
Enable winning the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes (Group 1) Picture: Pat Healy Photography

Enable  is currently as short as 7/2-on to do just that, having taken her Group 1 tally to nine with a cosy victory in the King George at Ascot (by a neck from Crystal Ocean) last time, hitting the front two furlongs out and always doing enough thereafter under a hands-and-heels ride.

This race back against her own sex looks nowhere near as competitive, with just the four runners going to post, and while her main aim is very much a return to Longchamp in the autumn, it will be a huge surprise if John Gosden's charge can't land this valuable prize en route; indeed, she is 4 lb clear of the field on weight-adjusted ratings and versatile in terms of tactics, as she showed when making all to win here two years ago.

Crystal Ocean winning the Al Rayyan Stakes (Registered As The Aston Park Stakes) (Group 3)
Crystal Ocean winning the Al Rayyan Stakes (Registered As The Aston Park Stakes) (Group 3) Picture: Pat Healy Photography

Magical , who announced her arrival on the big stage with a ready win in the Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot last October, looks likely to emerge as the chief threat to Enable, just as she has when chasing that rival home in the most recent renewals of the Breeders' Cup Turf and Coral-Eclipse, going down by just three quarters of a length on both occasions.

A high-class filly in her own right, Ballydoyle's decision to supplement her on Friday has added an extra dimension to what looked set to be a procession for Enable, but it is still hard to envisage her turning the tables, given that she had everything in her favour when the pair last met at Sandown. Indeed, Magical had race fitness on her side that day over a trip that should arguably have played more to her strengths, but, when it came to the crunch, the task of passing Juddmonte's star mare proved simply too much, just as it has for every other horse since April 2017.

Magical winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Group 1)
Magical winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Group 1) Picture: Pat Healy Photography

The field is completed by stablemates of the two principals, with Lah Ti Dar representing team Gosden and South Sea Pearl joining Magical on the journey over from Ireland.

The former was an impressive 10-length winner of the listed Galtres Stakes over C&D on this card 12 months ago, before ending that season with good placed efforts in the St Leger at Doncaster (two and a quarter lengths second to Kew Gardens) and Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot (one and three quarter lengths third to Magical).

She maintained her unbeaten York record with a reappearance win in the Middleton Stakes, but, in truth, that has proven the only high point in a rather anti-climactic campaign thus far, and the hesitancy she showed under pressure (carried head awkwardly) last time – when a neck third to stablemate Coronet in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud – is a bit of a concern. In any case, even her best form suggests that third is the best she can hope for.

South Sea Pearl, on the other hand, has no form to suggest that she is capable of mixing it at this level, most recently finishing well down the field in Sunday's Prix de Pomone at Deauville, and she looks booked for last in a race in which recommending a bet would be ill-advised, with no each-way terms and a favourite for whom defeat would rank amongst the greatest shocks in the history of the turf.

Rewind the clock 12 months ago and Yorkshire-based trainers were only narrowly denied a third consecutive success in the Lowther Stakes – the chief supporting race on Ladies Day – with the Brian Ellison-trained The Mackem Bullet losing out to Irish raider Fairyland in a photo finish.

Local winners are always very well received on the Knavesmire, and there is a fair chance that racegoers could be cheering another of their own into the winners' enclosure after this year's Lowther, with Liberty Beach appearing to hold leading claims for the Norton yard of John Quinn.

A three-length winner of a listed race at Sandown last month, Liberty Beach didn't need to improve to follow up in the Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood (by a length from Alligator Alley) last time, meeting trouble over a furlong out but ultimately well on top at the finish as she became the first filly to win the race since 2007.

That form is comfortably the best on offer in this line-up, and, given how strong she was at the finish, it would be a surprise if the extra furlong here didn't prove well within her range; she looks sure to take plenty of beating with further improvement on the cards.

The Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot is another race well worth revisiting, with the winner Under The Stars, third Living In The Past and fifth Good Vibes all set to reoppose here.

Under The Stars was a surprise winner on the day, going off at 25/1, but there didn't appear to be any fluke about it, getting the verdict by half a length with seemingly a bit in hand. It would certainly be a surprise if the other runs from that race were able to reverse the form, and with the prospect of even more to come after only two starts, this looks the obvious next step as she attempts to complete a double last achieved by Besharah in 2015.

Aidan O'Brien is represented by Precious Moments as he attempts to follow up Fairyland's success, but she has had her limitations in pattern company rather exposed in recent starts – a comment that also applies to Ken Condon's Celtic Beauty – and preference instead is for the most lightly-raced runner in the field.

A winner of her sole start to date at Newbury earlier this month, Wejdan did particularly well to get the verdict on that occasion, coming from a long way off the pace to nail one who had the benefit of a previous run.

A big, good-bodied individual who looks to have the scope for significant improvement, she has to rate an exciting prospect, and is worth a second look on what will be a bittersweet day for the William Haggas yard that was so cruelly robbed of last season's Yorkshire Oaks heroine Sea of Class.


Back Wejdan at 13/2 in Thursday's Lowther Stakes at York