The Epsom Oaks is a grade 1 flat race, which is run over a distance of one mile four furlongs and takes place every year in late May or early June at Epsom racecourse. It is one of the five classic races held in England and the second oldest behind St Ledger.
The race is open to three-year-olds, and like the 1000 Guineas, it is restricted to fillies and named after an estate (The Oaks) located to the east of Epsom, which was leased in the 18th century to the 12th Early of Derby. The first running of the race took place in 1779 and was won by Bridget, trained by Saunders and ridden by Dick Goodison, who incidentally went on to win the next two Oaks on Tetotum and Faith.
Different variations of the Oaks take part across Europe including, the Irish Oaks, the Preis der Diana, the Prix de Diana, and the Oaks d’Italia. The race was run at Newmarket during the two world wars, under the name ‘New Oaks Stakes.’
Most Successful Horse
With the race restricted to three-year-olds, it’s not possible to win the race on more than one occasion, although success is measured on many levels. When the name Oh So Sharp comes up in conversation, the word success shortly follows. Winner of the Epsom Oaks in 1985, ridden by American Jockey Steve Cauthen and trained by the late Henry Cecil. Having previously won the 1000 Guineas earlier on in the year, she then went on to complete the fillies Triple Crown by taking the honors in St Leger at Doncaster in September.
Two furlongs out in the 1985 Epsom Oaks, it looked as though the Patrick Biancone trained horse Triptych might have the measure of Oh So Sharp, that was until Steve Cauthen seemed to find another gear and the incredible stride that the filly had seen her pull away and win emphatically.
The Sheki Mohammed owned horse won seven of her nine races in total, between 1984 and 1985, and was never higher than 2/1 in the betting in any of her races. She was retired at the end of her three-year-old season, and become a successful broodmare. She died in 2001, aged nineteen.
Between 1797 and 1823, Jockey Frank Buckle recorded nine wins in the race, making him the leading jockey of the Epsom Oaks. More recently, Frankie Dettori is the standout man in the saddle with his five wins since 1985.
Balanchine gave Frankie his first win in 1994. The Hilal Ibrahim trained horse went off at 6/1 and stayed on well in the final furlong to win by two and a half lengths from eventual runner-up Wind in Her Hair.
The double was on in 1995 when Frankie Dettori took up the ride on the Irish horse, Moonshell. Neck and neck going into the final three hundred yards, the talented French jockey used all his racing skills to get up towards the line, passing the winning post just over a length in front of brave challenger Dance a Dream.
Kizzia in 2002 saw Frankie Detorri chalk up his hat-trick of wins in the race. Going off the 100/30 favorite, the horse made all the running and was head to head with eventual runner up two furlongs out. Despite a brave effort from Mick Kinane on Quarter Moon, Frankie managed to get his mount over the line half a length to the good.
Two of John Gosden’s trained horses gave Frankie his final two wins to date. A five-length victory from odds on favorite Rhodedendrum in 2017, and in 2019 only a neck separated the winner Anapurna from runner up Pink Dogwood.
Between 1802 and 1825, Robert Robson trained the winner of the Oaks on thirteen separate occasions. Moving forward to 1985, when he won his first Epsom Oaks, with Oh So Sharp, we have our modern-day Oaks hero and leading trainer., Henry Cecil.
Henry Cecil went on to win another six Oaks titles over the next twenty-two years. Diminuendo and Snow Bride in 1988 and 1989, were followed by another double in 96-97 with Lady Carla and Reams of Verse. Yet another two consecutive victories in 1999 and 2000, with Ramruna and Love Devine., Henry Cecil had his final win in 2007 with Light Shift, ridden by Ted Durcan.