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Varian hoping his fillies can rise to the occasion in the Investec Oaks

2 Jul 2020

A field of 8 have been declared for the Fillies' Classic on Saturday

Roger Varian is hoping his two runners, Gold Wand and Queen Daenerys, can break the stranglehold that John Gosden and Aidan O’Brien have had on the Investec Oaks for the past six years in Saturday’s renewal (3.40pm, live on ITV1).

Gosden saddled last year’s winner, Anapurna, plus won with Taghrooda in 2014 and Enable in 2017. This time the champion trainer relies on Frankly Darling, a decisive winner of the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot on her latest start, plus Tiempo Vuela, a taking winner at Newcastle last year who is partly in the same ownership.

O’Brien has hit the target with Qualify (2015), Minding (2016) and Forever Together (2018) in recent times and, overall, is seeking an eighth win in the fillies’ Classic, which forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series and this year will take place on the same day as the Investec Derby for the first time.

The master of Ballydoyle’s principal contender is Love, brilliant four-and-a-half length winner of the QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last month under Ryan Moore. Forty-eight fillies have completed the Guineas-Oaks double, the most recent being the O’Brien-trained Minding four years ago.

O’Brien, who has also had five horses placed in the Oaks in the past three years, will also be represented by Ennistymon and Passion, who finished second and third, respectively, behind Frankly Darling in the Ribblesdale. Ennistymon carries the colours of Evie Stockwell, a nonagenarian who is the mother of Coolmore supremo John Magnier.

All the O’Brien runners are daughters of Galileo, the trainer’s 2001 Investec Derby winner.

Varian’s contenders are also daughters of champions. Queen Daenerys was sired by the flawless Frankel, who won all of his 14 races, and Gold Wand is by Golden Horn, the 2015 Investec Derby winner.

Gold Wand created a good impression when winning a mile-and-a-quarter maiden at Newbury last month, while Queen Daenerys was putting in her best work at the finish when runner-up on her return in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket. Andrea Atzeni will ride the former with William Buick on the latter.

Varian said on Thursday morning: “My two are nice fillies and we feel they deserve to take their chance. Gold Wand’s a filly we’ve always thought the world of. She’s probably a touch unfortunate that in this unusual year she’s not had time to run twice before the Oaks. She would have been a filly to win a novice the way she did and then go on to an Oaks trial but we didn’t have time to do that and I didn’t think she was one to have three quick runs.

“Everything has gone smoothly since she won at Newbury. She’s obviously got to take a big step forward but I think she’s very talented and I’m hoping that she can overcome her inexperience and show what she’s capable of. She shows a high level of ability at home and we wouldn’t be running her in an Oaks unless we saw that from her. There’s only one Oaks and it’s very exciting for her owner.

“Queen Daenerys has not done much wrong in her career and I thought she ran a nice Oaks trial in the Pretty Polly, when she needed the run and looked to be crying out for an extra two furlongs. She had to dig in there after getting outpaced mid-race and could have easily dropped out, but she did her best work late on. She’s going to get better the further she goes.

“She’s taken a step forward for that run. She’s quite uncomplicated and the drying ground will suit her. She’s got to bring a new level of form to the table to be fighting out the finish but she’s a filly who’s only had four starts and her form reads well. I think she will outrun her odds.”

Varian had four winners and several other near-misses at Royal Ascot last month and said: “We’ve got to be very grateful to our owners because it shows we are building a depth of talent in the yard. A trainer’s only ever as good as the horses he gets to train. We have a nice spread of good owners sending us nice horses and it was rewarding to go to Ascot with a strong team and watching the majority run well. I hope it bodes well for the festivals to come.”

Bharani Star, who was fourth in the Ribblesdale Stakes, completes the eight-runner line-up.