Trainer Hugo Palmer confident improving Ocean Road can go the Oaks distance

HUGO Palmer believes Ocean Road has improved by “at least 10lb” since her last run as he bids to go one place better and capture his first Cazoo Oaks.

Dual champion jockey Oisin Murphy rides Ocean Road in today's Oaks after being left without a ride in the Derby.

Palmer saddled Architecture to finish second behind the great Minding in 2016 and rates Qatar Racing-owned Ocean Road another lively outsider in the fillies’ Classic at Epsom.

Today’s feature is the third Classic of the season and will be the second race in the Fillies & Mares category of the 2021 Qipco British Champions Series

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A daughter of 2014 Derby winner Australia, Ocean Road got an early taste of the Oaks track when exercising round Tattenham Corner and up the straight last week when the conditions were verging on heavy. Conditions have since dried markedly, with Epsom official watering the track extensively to maintain safe ground for these two flagship days.

Trainer Hugo Palmer saddles Ocean Road in today's Cazoo Oaks.

“I never thought this filly was a soft ground filly,” said Palmer.

“We felt it blunted her speed first time out at Nottingham when she was just second to Noon Star and it blunted her speed in the Lingfield Oaks Trial.

“I think she has come on an enormous amount from Lingfield. I’d be confident that she has come on at least 10lb and if she has come on 20lb she is going to be right there.

“I weighed her on Monday. She was only just ready to run when she went to Lingfield and she has stripped down to hard fit now. She is 18 kilos lighter than she was at Lingfield. Her work has been really good.”

Epsom is preparing to host its two-day Derby meeting.

Ocean Road finished third in the Novibet Oaks Trial at Lingfield under big race jockey Oisin Murphy, who was riding her for the first time.

Murphy will be a man on a mission – the two-time champion jockey is now without a ride in tomorrow’s Derby following a jockey merry-go-round at final declarations for the big race.

“The principal reason for taking her to Epsom was really for Oisin’s benefit. Her best work at home and her best runs on the track have been for Cieren Fallon,” added Palmer.

“I just felt that Cieren had a little bit more belief in her than Oisin did. I wanted her to give Oisin a really good feel at Epsom which she really did do. He was really happy with her and so we are all on the same page.

“My previous Oaks winner Architecture got beaten at Lingfield and went on and only found Minding too good.

“I think you’d have to have a serious crystal ball to point out a horse as good as Minding at this stage.

“The question with all of them is will they stay. I am pretty sure she will.

“Her brother Wigmore Hall stayed a mile and a half at Group One level and her father won the Derby.

The Cazoo Oaks will pit Palmer against his former assistant George Boughey who will have his first runner in the race in Mystery Angel.

The Nick Bradley Racing-owned filly won the Betfair Pretty Polly Stakes and then finished fourth behind Snowfall in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York and has been supplemented for the Classic.

Mystery Angel will be 29-year-old Boughey’s first runner in a Classic in his second season with a licence.

“I think she deserves her place,” he said. “She showed a liking for faster ground and that she had a turn of foot at Newmarket in the Pretty Polly, which is a renowned Oaks trial.”

Aidan O’Brien trains five of the 14 declarations as he seeks a ninth win in the fillies’ Classic.

They are headed by Santa Barbara, who finished fourth in the Qipco 1,000 Guineas, and Snowfall, who earned her place with victory in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes.

Yorkshire, meanwhile, is represented by Dubai Fountain after the Mark Johnston-trained filly took the Cheshire Oaks.

However William Haggas will not be using ground conditions as an excuse for Al Aasy should he come up short on his first start at Group One level in the Coral Coronation Cup.

The Newmarket handler has made no secret of the regard in which he holds the son of Sea The Stars – and he has justified that confidence this spring with two dominant displays in Group Three company at Newbury.

Al Aasy faces a step up in class and is likely to encounter a much faster surface, but Haggas is unconcerned.

He said: “The ground is what it is. He’s as good as we can have him – we’re very happy with his condition.”

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