US Classic runner-up could fly in for Oaks bid at Epsom

Kentucky Oaks

Daddys Lil Darling (left) could be coming to Epsom

The Investec Oaks could have a surprise American participant after the fillies’ Classic was put on the agenda of Friday’s Kentucky Oaks runner-up Daddys Lil Darling.

As a visit to Epsom was ruled out for 1,000 Guineas fourth Talaayeb, a transatlantic trip was being mapped out for Daddys Lil Darling, the Kentucky-based filly trained by Kenny McPeek who finished a staying-on second behind Abel Tasman at Churchill Downs.

Daddys Lil Darling, a half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday who has won two of her eight starts, has run only once on turf, finishing sixth of eight starters in the Florida Oaks.

McPeek said: “We’re going to train her on my gallops here in the next couple of weeks and as long as she’s doing well we’ll make the next stage and make a decision a few days before. There’s a definite possibility she will be coming.

“She has run once on turf and it was her first race of the season. We tried to press the pace a little bit and she got a little tired. I don’t think handling the turf is the problem, it’s more the distance.”

McPeek said he was considering Epsom because of a lack of Grade 1 options for three-year-old fillies at home. He is no stranger to competing in Britain, having saddled Hard Buck to finish second in the 2004 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and had placed runners at Royal Ascot, although his last visit in 2014 ended in frustration when Rosalind unseated Kieren Fallon exiting the stalls in the Coronation Stakes.

“The goal for an American-based filly is the Kentucky Oaks and that’s what we did. We made her a dirt horse. You can’t even find a Grade 1 for a grass filly in the US. As long as everything goes right and the client gives me the thumbs-up, I’m coming.

“I’m also in the market for a jockey who has ridden the mile and a half at Epsom, someone with talent. We’re not going to be bringing an American jockey. We’re going to try to use someone from over there.”

While US horses regularly compete at Royal Ascot, a runner at Epsom is rare and the trainer, who watched Winter beat Oaks favourite Rhododendron in Sunday’s 1,000 Guineas, added: “They haven’t had a Kentucky Oaks filly, so I guess William Hill and all those boys are going to have to work out how to set her odds.”

Talaayeb was cut to 14-1 for the Oaks after finishing fourth at Newmarket on her first start of the season but owner Hamdan Al Maktoum is not keen for her to run.

His racing manager Angus Gold said: “She’s not a very big, robust filly, so I’m not sure she’s a filly who would want too much racing. I spoke to Sheikh Hamdan briefly last night and he doesn’t want to go straight to the Oaks because we don’t yet know what her trip is.

“The Prix de Diane is a possible, I won’t say that we won’t [run there]. It’s the right step up but then you’re in against the best around and we might look to mind her.”

 

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