Aidan O’Brien secured his 200th victory at the highest level as Was ran out a surprise 20-1 winner of a rough renewal of the Investec Oaks at Epsom.
Seamie Heffernan was always in the perfect spot on the beautifully bred daughter of Galileo, but the passage of 11-4 favourite The Fugue, who finished a luckless third, left her owner Lady Madeline Lloyd Webber close to tears.
O’Brien was due to run six but pulled Kissed out an hour before the race on account of the quick ground. Was, out of a half-sister to Derby winner New Approach, then maintained his clean sweep of the British Classics this season - with odds-on favourite Camelot to come in the Derby.
Outsider Nayarra set only a pedestrian pace and those at the back, including the William Buick-ridden The Fugue, began to stack up in behind. The jockey was lucky to stay on board at one point as Betterbetterbetter chopped the favourite for room, and then Maybe was also interfered with.
Heffernan kept out of trouble in third position tight on the rail and kicked on two and a half furlongs out. Vow had her chance but could not quicken, while Shirocco Star and The Fugue began to make relentless progress. Was held on by a neck from Shirocco Star, with another half a length back to the favourite.
It was a fourth Oaks win for the master of Ballydoyle, but his first since Alexandrova in 2006. Joseph O’Brien was banned four days (June 15-18) for careless riding on Maybe, along with Darryll Holland on the runner-up.
The winning trainer said: “Seamus gave her a lovely ride. She came on lovely from her first run, so we were delighted. She’s a very good-looking filly with a great pedigree. He’s a great fellow, Seamus, a world-class jockey. He knows all these horses inside out and nobody deserves it more.
“We had been very happy at home with her in the spring, but she was coming up the gallop behind another horse whose shoe flew off and cut her above the knee. That delayed her and we were worried she’d miss the Classics.”
Heffernan added: “This is massive, it means an awful lot. I’ve been runner-up in the Derby twice and I’m very lucky to get to ride in all these big races, usually with chances. We had a good position and our one worry was her lack of experience, but she’s improved a lot since her last run.”
The Fugue’s trainer John Gosden said: “She was badly run into and was lucky not to go down. I’ve never been a bad loser, but you have to say she was unfortunate. It was a very messy race and she did well to get to where she did in the end. She ran a game race, but she just ran out of ground.”
O’Brien hunting another Moyglare
Aidan O’Brien’s A Star Is Born is one of a number of potentially high-class entries for the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh on September 9.
The Group One event over a mile has a rich history of producing fillies of Classic ability, and was won last year by the O’Brien-trained Maybe.
A Star Is Born is bred to be good, being a Galileo full-sister to Rip Van Winkle.
Another Moyglare victory would be a seventh in total for O’Brien, who first struck in 2000 with Sequoyah.
Conserve, a daughter of the former O’Brien-trained Duke Of Marmalade, is an eyecatching entry from Britain for Sir Henry Cecil and the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing syndicate. Cecil won the Moyglare in 1989 with the Steve Cauthen-ridden Chimes Of Freedom.
In total, 105 entries were received.
Flynn outlines Ascot plan
Pat Flynn is planning a three-horse raid on Royal Ascot in three weeks’ time.
The County Waterford trainer is targeting Designs On Rome at the Coventry Stakes, Brog Deas at the Britannia Handicap and Waydownsouth at the Wolferton Handicap.
“We have Waydownsouth to go in the Wolferton on the Friday. He was third there last year. If he’s in good form we’ll go over,” Flynn told At The Races.
“I have Brog Deas who has won his last three - hopefully we are aiming him for the Britannia on Thursday.
“(I also have) Designs On Rome, a beautiful two-year-old that finished fourth at the Curragh last week.
“If he wins next time out at Navan or the Curragh, we’ll go to the Coventry on the Tuesday.”
House shines in Brigadier
Carlton House (10-11 favourite) made an accomplished return from a long absence by claiming the Betfair Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt, owned by The Queen, had not been sighted since finishing fourth in the Irish Derby last June, but looked the essence of vitality in Esher, and was perhaps a little too keen to get on with things, virtually from the start, as Colombian’s early pace was sedate at best.
I’m A Dreamer came through to lead two furlongs out, closely followed by Hunter’s Light on her outside, but Carlton House bisected that duo as they sprinted inside the final furlong to collect by a length and three-quarters in the hands of Ryan Moore.
Sagramor (25-1) flew at the death to finish second.
Stoute said: “I didn’t feel too much pressure coming into this evening. I came here hopeful. They weren’t serious problems last year, but they were enough to prevent him from racing. It was pretty hard to prepare him for a Derby when his foot was in an ice bucket morning, noon and night.
“He was very fresh today. When he went through the gap he filled up again as it wasn’t a strong gallop.
“We’ll go for the Prince of Wales’s (Royal Ascot) next and take it one step at a time.”
Moore said: “I was very happy with him. He was fresh early but they weren’t going quick. He got the gap and went through it, he always tries his hardest.
“That was only his sixth race so you’d like to think he’ll keep on improving.”
Poll tops charts in Henry II
The honourably consistent Opinion Poll secured another big race in the Betfair Henry II Stakes at Sandown.
Trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni and ridden by Frankie Dettori, the six-year-old stayer could not have looked any more stylish in the Group Three over an extended two miles.
Chiberta King attempted to make the running, and did so until just before the final-furlong pole when Dettori’s companion slalomed into a wide-open space and bolted clear. The 5-4 favourite had two and three-quarter lengths in reserve of Ibicenco, with Chiberta King a close-up third, to further boost his claims for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot.
Al Zarooni said: “Frankie knows this horse very well. He held on to him as long as he could because he has a real burst of speed. In the Gold Cup it will be all about Frankie and how he times his run.
“When he came back from Dubai we gave him some time off before we built him back up again. When they travel such a long way it affects them so I don’t think he’ll have been at his best tonight.”
Dettori added: “He’s a stayer with a turn of foot and I love him. He’s a pleasure to ride.”