Irish raider Ezeliya puts on an impressive display to take the Betfred Oaks at Epsom

By Peter Moore at Epsom Friday 31st May 2024

Ezeliya proved a class apart by taking the Betfred Oaks on Ladies Day of the Betfred Derby Festival at Epsom.

The Dermot Weld Irish raider was positioned near the rear of the chasing pack before making rapid headway around Tattenham Corner. She then pulled clear of Dance Sequence to win by three lengths.

Weld, has had to wait 43 years for further success in the race after Lester Piggott partnered Blue Wind to victory in 1981.

It was also a first UK Classic success for jockey Chris Hayes. Dermot Weld said: “Chris gave her a beautiful ride. That was the plan, to ride her the same as he rode her at Navan, where he dropped her out last. She loves to come from off the pace.

“She’s a very genuine, brave filly, and her dam was a very good racemare I trained. She was a good Group filly who went to the Breeders’ Cup and Hong Kong, but this filly probably has a bit more speed and a bit more class.

“This is a progressive filly. I was pretty sure she’d stay, and she also has pace. She’s from a great staying family of the Aga Khan’s – the family of the Queen’s Gold Cup winner Estimate, who is a close relative – so that was why I was confident she’d stay.

“She got a beautiful ride from Chris Hayes and she had the race won a long way out. She was cantering, and she got a lovely run down the hill. Chris got her balanced and into a rhythm before he let her go.

“It’s a few years since I won the Oaks before but I haven’t had many runners and I had Tarfasha finish second to Taghrooda a few years ago (2014). It’s been a lucky place for me as I won the Derby too with Harzand and I rode and trained an amateurs’ Derby winner too.

On his plans for the winner, Weld said: “We’ll see how she comes out of the race. She’s not a big filly, and Classics always take something out of a horse, so we’ll review it. She’s in the Irish Oaks, but we’ll decide whether we give her time off for an autumn campaign, which may involve the Arc.”

Luxembourg made every yard of the running to win the Holland Cooper Coronation Cup under Ryan Moore to give trainer Aidan O’Brien a record ninth victory in the mile and a half contest.

The five-year-old was always at the head of affairs. Despite facing a late challenge from Hamish entering the final furlongs but still never looked in any real danger of being overtaken to take his fourth Group 1 victory.

Aidan O’Brien said: “It’s a difficult race to win and we are delighted for him. We ran him a little bit short over the winter and a mile and a half is probably the trip he loves, although he has very good form at a mile and a quarter. The better the ground the better he’ll be, and we think he’ll hopefully be a King George horse.

“Ryan gave him a brilliant ride. He had him in a lovely and relaxed rhythm early on, and when he started to quicken his fractions were brilliant. A horse like that in front, the way Ryan was riding him, was always going to be difficult to deal with if you were following him.

“Tactically, he’s brilliant. He’s riding in big races all of the time and he has so much experience he knows 99 percent of the other horses. He’s always a massive advantage to us.”

Middleham trainer Karl Burke saddled Teej A to win the opening race on the card, the Betfred British EBF Conditions Stakes, a six furlongs race for two-year-olds.

The winner, one of four runners in the race for owner Nick Bradley Racing, took the lead entering the final furlong before running on well to score by a length and a quarter from Megalithic.

Winning trainer Karl Burke said: “She went beautifully at Chester when she won last time; she travelled really well and balanced down the hill. But the great thing about her is that she has grown up behind since Chester – I really noticed it in the paddock and watching her stood still there. She’s got a couple of inches to grow, I think, so there’s a bit of scope there for the future.

“I don’t know about Royal Ascot for her. She’s got the ability to go there, but I think there’s a bit of growing to do, so why rush her back when she’s had a couple of quick races, now? We’ll probably go for a nice Group race in France, get that black type for her, and I’d be looking at the likes of the Cheveley Park Stakes for her later in the season, and really fulfil her potential.”

Burke brought up a double on the card when Bolster won the valuable £100,000 Betfred Nifty Fifty Handicap over 1m 2f.

The four-year-old colt made virtually all the running and held on well to win by three quarters of a length from Paradias.

A photo-finish to the £75,000 TrustATrader Handicap over an extended mile saw Two Tempting  take the honours by the minimum distance of a nose. Partnered by David Egan, the five-year-old took the lead quarter of a mile out and kept on gamely to hold off the late challenge of Beshtani.

Winning trainer Johnny Portman said: “I was pretty sure we’d been chinned, but I would have been very happy with second. I thought he’d run a blinder. Although this was the plan, because he ran well here last year, expectations were less. Jockey had him in the right place at the right time, and it worked.

“I never put him in the Royal Hunt Cup. I rang the owner up when the Hunt Club was closing, and said, ‘What do you think?’ Then I thought no, I wish I hadn’t rung him, that was stupid – now maybe we should have put him in, I don’t know.

Elsewhere, three-year-old Evade came out on top in the Aston Martin Surrey Stakes with Oisin Murphy aboard. The colt was making his first appearance of 2024, having not run for 243 days, but got the better of Native American in a thrilling finish to win by a short head.