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Treasure hunting Oaks glory for the King and Queen

Treasure hunting Oaks glory for the King and Queen
Treasure hunting Oaks glory for the King and Queen

Racegoers at Epsom on Friday can look forward to seeing a royal runner bid for Classic glory after Treasure was declared for the Betfred Oaks.

Dunfermline in 1977 was the last horse to carry the royal colours to victory in a British Classic, winning not only the Oaks but also the St Leger at Doncaster in what was Silver Jubilee year.

The late Queen landed five Classics in all, with Carrrozza her first Oaks heroine in 1957, while the current King and Queen enjoyed a memorable first Flat season last year, with Desert Hero winning at Royal Ascot before finishing third in the St Leger.

Dunfermline gets a pat from the Queen Mother after winning the Oaks at Epsom
Dunfermline gets a pat from the Queen Mother after winning the Oaks at Epsom (PA)

Treasure, a homebred daughter of Mastercraftsman, won on her racecourse debut at Nottingham in the autumn before finishing fourth behind stablemate You Got To Me in the Lingfield Oaks Trial on her reappearance three weeks ago.

Trainer Ralph Beckett was initially minded to keep his powder dry until the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot with Treasure, but a subsequent change of heart means she will join You Got To Me and the first and third from the Cheshire Oaks, Forest Fairy and Seaward, to give Beckett a formidable quartet as he goes in search of a third victory in the race.

“We had been thinking Treasure was more a filly for Royal Ascot this time last week, but with the way the ground is now at Epsom, we decided to have a go at the Oaks as the ground should be in her favour,” said the Kimpton Downs handler.

“I have been very pleased with her progress since her reappearance at Lingfield. The King and Queen are such enthusiastic owners and it is great to be training such a nice filly for them who is running in a Classic.”

John Warren (left) with trainer Ralph Beckett
John Warren (left) with trainer Ralph Beckett (John Walton/PA)

John Warren, racing adviser for the King and Queen, is excited by the prospect of seeing the famous colours on show in the Oaks once more.

On the reasoning behind the decision to run at Epsom, he told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast: “I think it was the piece of work she did on Saturday. Ralph had never discounted her completely out of the Oaks because luckily there is a decent gap between the Oaks and the Ribblesdale this year.

“It’s three weeks or 20 days or whatever, so the plan was in principle to go there (Royal Ascot), but with Ralph having such a good form line with the lovely fillies that he has in his yard at the moment, he was sort of getting the impression that she was just becoming a late burn as it were.

“She’s a big, rangy filly, who did well as a two-year-old to win on her only start in very deep ground. She didn’t do it overly impressively, but did win well enough.

“This spring she has developed into a pretty imposing, impressive, physical. And as she started to mature in the spring, Ralph started talking about Oaks trials rather than novices or what have you so she’s progressed really well.

“She’s unexposed and is one we are very much looking forward to and in particular on that little piece of work she did. It was only over six furlongs, so what can you say in real terms? But she worked impressively enough on Saturday, so Ralph thought with three weeks before the Ribblesdale, why not give it a go?”

Warren feels underfoot conditions will suit Treasure, who will be ridden by James Doyle, but admitted to having doubts about whether her stamina will stand up to the test of the mile and a half.

He added: “I think we’ve been looking forward to watching the weather forecast very closely because she won on heavy and her action would make you think that she will probably enjoy a bit of cut in the ground.

“If you take the favourite (Ylang Ylang) out of it, who is very high-class, a lot of the remainder are not dissimilar to her in that they are young and unexposed horses who are just maturing and I guess there’s always hope when you see something.

James Doyle in the royal colours
James Doyle in the royal colours (John Walton/PA)

“She looked as if she was going to give them a good run for their money at Lingfield, but then just fell in a bit of a heap and I think she really needed that race.

“We’re realistic to know that it’s an open race and she’s a 16-1 shot or whatever she is, but the biggest concern is whether she is a genuine stayer or not.

“In the 14 family members that make up her immediate family, only two in the third generation, Darshaan and Dubawi’s dam, stayed a mile and a half at that level, so she’s not particularly bred to be a proper galloper over a mile and a half.

“That was the only thing at Lingfield as when she looked busy she then just slightly tailed off a bit in the last 150 yards. Was it a matter of the complete fitness or was it a matter of not being a proper, genuine, staying mile-and-a-half filly?”

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