NORTON trainer Tony Coyle is set to saddle his first runner in a Classic at Epsom today and is hopeful that Lily Rules, runner-up in the Musidora Stakes at York last month, can defy her long odds and run a big race in the £525,000 Investec Oaks.
Coyle believes the easy ground at Epsom, plus the experience Lily Rules has gathered in ten career starts will stand her in good stead in the Group 1 contest. Not among the original entries, the North Yorkshire filly has been supplemented at a cost of £30,000 to Halifax owner Chris Whiteley to take her place in the field.
Coyle is keeping his fingers crossed that Lily Rules can finish in the first five and thus pick up some prize money. Barry McHugh's Coyle's number one jockey, who has ridden Lily Rules in all but two of her races, again has the mount and will also be making his Classic debut.
While it would be a major upset if Lily Rules were to win the race, considerably fewer would be surprised if nap selection Taghrooda prevailed in the hands of Paul Hanagan, who is seeking his first Classic success.
Trained by John Gosden, pictured, for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, Hanagan's employer, Taghrooda won her only start as a juvenile and was hugely impressive when scoring in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket on her only outing this season.
A wide-margin winner on that occasion, it could be argued that the opposition has since done little to boost the form, but Taghrooda could do no more than beat what was put in front of her.
She is likely to benefit from the step up to a mile and a half today and although the opposition includes Marvellous, winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Taghrooda is fancied to provide Hanagan, the former Malton-based champion jockey, with a Classic success to savour.
The Epsom card could prove beneficial to North Yorkshire runners. David Barron's Tres Coronas (2.10) has to be respected after his excellent second to the high-class Clever Cookie at York last month, while the evergreen Penitent (2.45) goes for another Group 3 prize after winning in similar company at Haydock last Saturday.
David O'Meara, trainer of Penitent, also has good claims with the unbeaten That Is The Spirit (4.45), an impressive York winner three weeks ago, while Brian Ellison's Llarnamon Lad (3.20) won well at Thirsk last time on only his second start back after a lengthy absence.
At Catterick, Ellison can also make his mark with Mon Brav in the Pin Point Recruitment Handicap. The gelding is not the easiest of horses to win with, but he has shown definite signs of returning to form in his last two races at Doncaster and Goodwood.
Lilac Lace should not be overlooked in the EBF Stallions Breeding Winners' Fillies' Handicap. Although Tim Easterby's charge has failed to trouble the judge this season, it is some time since she has dropped below a handicap rating of 80. She could bounce back here.
Also worth noting are the consistent Windforpower (2.55) and Perfect Words (5.10), who is wearing first-time blinkers after her recent third-placed effort at Redcar.
1.35 Mango Diva, 2.10 Tres Coronas, 2.45 Penitent, 3.20 Llarrnamon Lad, 4.00 Taghrooda (NAP), 4.45 That Is The Spirit, 5.20 Kafeel.
1.45 Fullon Clarets, 2.20 Incendo, 2.55 Windforpower, 3.30 Ruwasi, 4.10 Mon Brav, 4.40 Lilac Lace, 5.10 Perfect Words.
Today's other meetings
Bath, Goodwood and Market Rasen.
Doncaster, Epsom, Hexham, Lingfield, Musselburgh, Newcastle and Worcester.