Frankie Dettori is aiming to match 1,000 Guineas and Oaks double, with trainer Mahmood al Zarooni saying the Godolphin filly has improved since Newmarket.
Blue Bunting is ready to emulate Kazzia
LONDON // Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has an excellent record in the Oaks at Epsom, and Blue Bunting bids to extend that success today when she lines up under Frankie Dettori in Godolphin blue.
Blue Bunting's surprise win in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket at the end of April was considered a bonus in the career trajectory of the filly, trained by Mahmood al Zarooni.
A win in today's 2,400 metre test would see her follow in the path of her illustrious Godolphin predecessor, Kazzia.
Kazzia, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, was the last filly to complete the double in the Oaks and 1,000 Guineas in 2002. Al Zarooni believes that Blue Bunting has progressed in her training ahead of her run at the £325,000 (Dh1.95 million) purse.
"Blue Bunting is doing very well and she has improved since her victory at Newmarket," said al Zarooni, whose horses boast a 25 per cent strike rate in Britain this season. "She has the best jockey riding her and we have every chance of winning another big race."
Dettori anchored Blue Bunting at the back of the pack at Newmarket. Thanks to a helpful headwind that sapped the stamina of the early leaders, Blue Bunting finished with a wet sail to finish clear of Together and Maqaasid, owned by Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid.
In both of her victories last season under Ahmed Ajtebi, Blue Bunting raced prominently, but al Zarooni considers the new tactics as an important aspect of his filly's armoury.
"I think that the best thing to do will be to drop her in at first," al Zarooni said. "It takes her a long time to get going in her races. We saw that at Newmarket, when she was outpaced at the start but started to get going in the second half of the race."
Drawing clear against tired opposition along a straight 1,600m is one thing, but tackling 12 other rivals over Epsom's famous undulating camber is another matter, as al Zarooni is quick to point out.
"The course is a bit of an unknown, but she is a well-balanced filly and I am hopeful that she can cope with the track.
"It won't be easy to win, but she is a classy filly and has already won a Classic."
If Blue Bunting is considered the most likely victor, Mick Channon does not know it because in Zain Al Boldan he lines up the only unbeaten runner in the field.
Zain Al Boldan, owned by Jaber Abdullah, the UAE businessman, beat little when winning an Oaks trial by six lengths last month. Lingfield racecourse has a similar layout to Epsom, however, and the filly should be able to handle what is one of the world's most idiosyncratic tracks.
"Everyone is excited about the Oaks," said Channon from the gallops of his West Ilsley stables. "It was a great performance from Zain Al Boldan in the trial. She's had a great preparation, I think she's improved."