TONY Coyle hopes to cause a Classic upset next week after stable star Lily Rules – a bargain buy at £8,500 – was added to the line-up for the Epsom Oaks a week today.
While the Malton trainer admits the likelihood of a surprise victory is remote, connections are encouraged by the likelihood of soft ground after Halifax-based owner Chris Whiteley agreed to pay the £30,000 supplementary entry fee.
The blue riband race for fillies will see Lily Rules renew her rivalry with Madame Chiang after they fought out a thrilling finish to the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York earlier this month.
It saw the David Simcock-trained Madame Chiang, the beneficiary of a vintage Kieren Fallon hold-up ride, prevail by just over a length from Coyle’s unheralded horse.
With Fallon claimed to ride Godolphin’s Ihtimal in the Oaks, William Buick will ride Madame Chiang in the big race after partnering the filly at Epsom yesterday during a racecourse gallop down Tattenham Hill and around the famous corner where the race will be won and lost.
However, these illustrious names do not deter Coyle, a journeyman jockey from Ireland who has turned his pre-training yard into a successful stable over the past three years with 50 horses now in training.
His rate of progress is mirrored by Lily Rules, who has raced 10 times since making her racecourse debut at Beverley in April 2013.
To date, she has two wins – and five seconds to her name – and had absolutely no luck in running when six to Richard Fahey’s highly-rated Sandiva in the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket last month before showing her battling qualities on York’s Knavesmire.
“With the ground coming up soft, it pushed the race our way,” Coyle told The Yorkshire Post as he looked ahead to his first Classic runner. “She goes on good, but she is very effective on soft.
“I’ll never have another filly good enough to run in the race, so she’s going for the Oaks. The odds are stacked against her, but she’ll hopefully beat more horses than what beat her.
“She’s a tough and hardy filly who has never let anyone down from the day she walked into the yard. Mind, all she does is sleep and eat. She wouldn’t win a raffle at home. She’s the worst work horse you’ve seen in your life, she won’t win a gallop, but she’s totally different on a racecourse.
“She’s a very good filly. Whether she is a Group One filly, I won’t know because we haven’t had one before. This is all new to us, but she’s got the experience and I think she will handle the track – she’s had 10 races. It’s not as if she’s going to Epsom on the back of one or two runs. She goes there with a chance.”
Coyle confirmed that Barry McHugh, who has partnered Lily Rules in eight of her 10 career starts, will keep the ride at Epsom. He said: “Barry rides at our place three mornings a week and knows her very well. ‘Baz’ would be crying if he didn’t ride her in the Oaks.”
In contrast to Coyle, his countryman Aidan O’Brien could have up to five runners in the Investec Oaks with Ballydoyle’s battalion likely to be spearhead by Marvellous, winner of the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh last Sunday.
Frankie Dettori was encouraged by Amazing Maria when the partnership cantered at the ‘Breakfast with the Stars’ morning.
Ed Dunlop’s filly looked impressive in the Group Three Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last season but will run in the Oaks without a prep run. Dettori said: “When you miss a trial it’s important to get her here (to Epsom) and stretch her legs.
“The rain’s quite good, she raced on it before and she likes it. I was very pleased. We know she’s definitely got natural ability.”
Oaks ante-post favourite Taghrooda – the mount of former champion jockey Paul Hanagan in his role as retained rider to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum – also engaged in a solid piece of work.
John Gosden’s filly won Newmarket’s Pretty Polly Stakes by six lengths, but the trainer noted: “Soft ground’s not her favourite...it looks a race of great depth and I think you can make a case for at least half a dozen.”
As for the Investec Derby on Saturday week, the horse to beat is the O’Brien-schooled Australia as the trainer bids to win a third successive renewal following the successes of Camelot (2012) and Ruler Of The World 12 months ago.
However, Kingston Hill gained plenty of admiring glances from work-watchers as Roger Varian’s horse, the winner of last season’s Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, pulled a couple of lengths clear of two lead-horses.
Eighth in the 2000 Guineas, he has always been considered more suitable for the Derby and jockey Andrea Atzeni said: “He went really nicely. He travelled good and quickened up well. He handled the ground – it’s pretty soft out there – but I was very pleased with him.
“We didn’t go mad, we went a bit quicker down the hill as we wanted to see how he went round the bend. He pricked his ears when he got to the front, he always does that.”