Ryedale goes for Classic glory today as Tony Coyle bids to end a 47-year wait for the county, as Tom O’Ryan reports.
A filly who cost less than £10,000 is aiming to hit the ultimate jackpot this weekend by pulling-off a rags-to-riches triumph for her trainer at Epsom and bridging a 47-year gap for Ryedale.
Lily Rules will be a first Classic runner for Norton trainer Tony Coyle when she contests today's Investec Oaks and bids to become the first Yorkshire-trained winner of the race since Pia scored for Highfield trainer Bill Elsey in 1967 with Edward Hide in the saddle.
The ambitious challenge comes hot on the heels of a momentous North Yorkshire success at Chantilly last Sunday when Kevin Ryan sent out his Dante Stakes winner The Grey Gatsby to lift the French Derby.
“We’re going to give it a go. Why not? We might never have another horse good enough to go there,” says Coyle, who trains Lily Rules, an 8,500gns yearling purchase, for Halifax owner Chris Whiteley.
The three-year-old was not originally entered in the Oaks but Whiteley has stumped up a supplementary entry fee of £30,000 to add Lily Rules to the line-up following her excellent effort at York last month when she finished second to Madame Chiang in the Musidora Stakes, a race long-since regarded as a springboard to the Epsom showpiece.
“She ran a blinder at York,” said Coyle. “It was her first run over a mile and a quarter and she got the trip no problem. She’s got a mile and a half to run at Epsom and although she’s not guaranteed to stay it on pedigree, her temperament and running style will give her every chance.”
Coyle describes Lily Rules as “the most laid-back filly you’ll ever come across”. He added: “Nothing worries her. Epsom on Oaks Day can be a big deal for a lot of fillies, who could boil-over and lose their race before it starts. But there’s never a bother on Lily, We’ll be almost dragging her around the paddock, she’ll be that chilled. She’s a real darling.”
Such is her relaxed way that Lily Rules rarely impresses in a gallop at home. “She normally does what she has to do and no more, but she did work brilliantly before the Musidora,” revealed Coyle, who gave his stable star her final serious bit of work last Saturday when taking her away from her usual workplace and sending her to Richard Fahey’s Musley Bank gallops to go through her paces.
It was enough to convince Coyle that Lily Rules deserves her place in the Oaks field. The prospect of further rain and the ground being on the soft side at Epsom is to her trainer’s liking. “She goes well on it and if it is soft a lot of those lightly-raced ‘posh’ fillies might not handle it. Lily has had ten races, she’s got experience, she knows the craic, and she’s tough.”
Barry McHugh, who has ridden Lily Rules in all but two of her races, and who was on board her in the Musidora Stakes at York, will be in the saddle again on Friday, set fair for his first Classic mount.
“Baz knows her better than anyone and gets on well with her,” said Coyle. “It’s a big deal for him to ride in a race like the Oaks.”
It’s a big deal, too, for Tony Coyle to have a runner in the race. Among the favourites is the unbeaten Taghrooda, the mount of Paul Hanagan, riding for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and John Gosden. Lily Rules will be one of the outsiders, but her trainer remains hopeful of a bold show in a race which carries prize money of £525,000.
“She’s not just there to make up the numbers,” insists Coyle. “She’ll give it a good shot and if she could finish in the first five, we’d be absolutely delighted.”