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Rhododendron Second In Gr1 Investec Oaks

There was thunder and lightning above Epsom as the 10 runners went to post. It spooked the American runner Daddys Lil Darling into bolting towards the stalls, causing Olivier Peslier to bail out, something he described as the ‘last solution’ and, loose, the filly skidded into the plastic rails beyond the start.

Both were unharmed but she was withdrawn and, on an otherwise nice day, the race was run in a torrential downpour. Aidan O’Brien’s Pocketfullofdreams went off at such a gallop it can only have played to Enable’s stamina and worked against her odds-on stable-mate Rhododendron, the Gr1 winning full sister to Bush Hill Stud’s Flying The Flag.

However, Enable and Rhododendron engaged in a terrific dual from the three-furlong pole. At that stage the Irish filly Rhododendron appeared to have the upper hand, but Dettori’s mount got her off the bridle at the two marker and had her measure with a furlong to run before galloping to a win. Alluringly was six lengths back in third with Horseplay in fourth.

Flying The Flag pictured recently at Bush Hill Stud - the full brother to Gr1 winner, Rhododendron. Image: Candiese Marnewick
Flying The Flag pictured recently at Bush Hill Stud – the full brother to Gr1 winner, Rhododendron. Image: Candiese Marnewick
 “That was a real Oaks,” exclaimed Gosden. “The drama before and the flash of lightning as they were loading – it was all a bit Hollywood. I thought they were two magnificent fillies; they fought hard down the straight. You could see Frankie and Ryan (Moore) lock on three out and I must say from there to the furlong marker I thought we were in trouble.”
Dettori also thought along similar lines. “When I saw Ryan not moving I thought ‘oh God, I’m in trouble’ but once I saw the distress signals coming out I knew my filly would stay. It wasn’t very nice out there. I didn’t want to celebrate until we were over the line.”

O’Brien may not have won the Classic but he did not draw a Group One blank, however, although his travel arrangements nearly did for it after a fuel spill over the aeroplane that was bringing his horses from Shannon to Farnborough as it was being filled up.

Highland Reel made it to Epsom just 70 minutes – time enough for ‘a quick piddle’ according to his trainer – before the Investec Coronation Cup. The race went considerably smoother for the globetrotting horse, who made all under Moore. Said O’Brien. “The fuel spilled out over the plane and they had to get a new cap for the fuel tank – I thought that only happened with cars?”


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