The Epsom Oaks is the second fillies Classic of the season after the 1000 Guineas. Sometimes referred to as “the fillies’ Derby”, the Oaks has been won by some of the greatest fillies in racing. These include Petite Etoile (1959), Sun Princess (1983), Oh So Sharp (1985), Ouija Board (2004) and Enable (2017).
The Oaks takes place over a mile and a half over the undulating Epsom Downs. It is often the target of fillies who ran well in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and this presents a very different test. You need a well-balanced filly to cope with Epsom’s camber, as well as the stamina to see out the distance.
Famous Epsom Oaks Winners & History
First run in 1779, The Oaks is the second oldest of the English Classic races behind the St Leger. The inaugural race was won by Bridget, owned by Lord Derby. The first Epsom Derby took place the following year and both races have leant their names to Classic races around the world.
In 1902 the Oaks was won by Sceptre, a remarkable filly who won four English Classics. She won both the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, the Oaks and the St Leger. In 1904 Pretty Polly became the fifth filly in history to land the fillies’ Triple Crown of 1000 Guineas, Oaks and St Leger. That feat was repeated by Sun Chariot in 1942, defeating Derby winner Watling Street in the Doncaster Classic.
1959 winner Petite Etoile followed up her 1000 Guineas in the Oaks and remained unbeaten in six races as a three-year-old. She went on to win the Coronation Cup at Epsom in consecutive seasons in 1960 and 1961.
Dunfermline won for Her Majesty The Queen in 1977 before going on to defeat dual Arc winner Alleged in the St Leger. She was trained by Major Dick Hern and ridden by Willie Carson, the combination that teamed up with record 12 lengths winner Sun Princess in 1983. She also went on to win the St Leger.
The last filly to complete the Triple Crown was Oh So Sharp, trained by Henry Cecil and ridden by Steve Cauthen. She won the Guineas in record time before storming to a 6 lengths victory in the Oaks. Ouija Board was another very popular filly, winning the race for the 19th Earl of Derby in 2004. She won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Turf in 2004 and 2006.
Enable added her name to the list of Oaks winners in 2017 and has since gone on to become an International superstar. She won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 2017 and 2018 and finished runner-up in 2019. Enable also won the Breeders’ Cup Turf (2018), Eclipse Stakes (2019) and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes on three occasions (2017, 2019, 2020).
Key Epsom Oaks Trials
The 1000 Guineas at Newmarket is one of the most influential races on the Oaks betting. Kazzia (2002), Minding (2016) and Love (2020) were the most recent fillies to win both races. Horses beaten in the Guineas have also gone on to win over the extra half mile at Epsom.
The Pretty Polly Stakes over ten furlongs at Newmarket is another significant trial. Ouija Board (2004), Talent (2013) and Taghrooda (2014) all won there before going on to victory at Epsom. The Musidora Stakes at York produced Oaks winners Reams Of Verse (1997) and Sariska (2009). The Lingfield Oaks Trial/Epsom Oaks double was completed by Lady Carla (1996), Ramruma (1999) and Anapurna (2019).
Epsom Oaks Betting Trends
Market leaders have struggled in the Oaks in recent years with only two successful favourites between 2010 and 2020. The Aidan O’Brien-trained duo of Minding (2016) and Love (2020) both justified heavy support.
The race has produced plenty of shock results. Qualify was rank outsider at 50-1 in 2015 while Look Here was a 33-1 shot in 2008. Dancing Rain (2011), Was (2012) and Talent (2013) all returned at 20-1, contributing to an average SP of over 10-1 over the past twenty years.
Epsom Oaks Stats
All recent Oaks winners ran within the previous five weeks and most had finished either first or second on their previous outing. Anapurna (2019) was the only recent winner to have raced over a mile and a half on her previous start. Pedigree analysis can usually give a good indication whether a filly is likely to stay the Oaks trip.
About two-thirds of recent winners had won over a mile and a quarter or further. An official rating of 102 or higher is usually required to win here and around a quarter of recent winners had already won a Group race.
Top Trainers and Jockeys
Aidan O’Brien has trained the winner of the Oaks on eight occasions including five of the ten renewals between 2011 and 2020. Love (2020) provided him with his fourth victory in a six-year period. He is still five winners behind the thirteen victories of Robert Robson between 1802 and 1825. The only trainer to rival O’Brien in recent years has been John Gosden, successful with Taghrooda (2014), Enable (2017) and Anapurna (2019).
Frank Buckle rode 9 Oaks winners between 1797 and 1823. Frankie Dettori rode his first Oaks winner on Balanchine in 1994. He followed up on Moonshell in 1995 and Kazzia in 2002, all three in the colours of the Godolphin operation. He has since forged a new partnership with John Gosden for whom he rode his fourth and fifth victories on Enable and Anapurna.
Betting on the Epsom Oaks
Ante-post betting on the Epsom Oaks is available throughout the year. The first serious betting activity begins with the staying two-year-old races such as the May Hill Stakes and the Fillies’ Mile. The 1000 Guineas has a big impact on the Oaks betting and often establishes a clear favourite for the race.
Bookmakers can offer “non-runner – no bet” in the build-up to the race and new customers enhanced odds on the Oaks favourite to a limited stake. Although the Oaks rarely attracts a large field, recent results offer plenty of encouragement for each-way betting.
The Epsom Oaks is one of the top races of the season and often reveals a top class filly. The likes of Oh So Sharp, Ouija Board and Enable have gone on to become stars of the turf. The Oaks also sets the scene perfectly for the Derby and regularly features a clash between the top stables of Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden.