Is Epsom Oaks entrant Frankly Darling the next big star for Anthony Oppenheimer and John Gosden?
Ever since Golden Horn’s spell-binding campaign of 2015, Anthony Oppenheimer’s Hascombe and Valiant Studs operation has been riding the crest of a wave.
Declared by jockey Frankie Dettori as his favourite racehorse of all time, the John Gosden-trained colt swept aside all that was put before him to land the top level Investec Derby, Eclipse Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe during an unforgettable 12 months.
Cracksman shone for the owner-breeder in 2017 and 2018 with back-to-back Champion Stakes, while 2019 belonged to British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes winner Star Catcher.
The question now is which horse will show itself in 2020 to ensure the Oppenheimer-Gosden axis remains at its peak?
The current leading contender to keep those famous red, black and white silks relevant in the winners’ enclosure appears to be Frankly Darling.
A winner on the All-Weather at Newcastle on racing’s return on June 1, the daughter of Frankel made light work of the step up to Group 2 company when triumphing in the Ribblesdale Stakes – a race won by Star Catcher last year – at Royal Ascot.
Bookmakers reacted accordingly, slashing her odds to 3/1 second favourite for next month’s Investec Oaks at Epsom – a Classic that is absent on Oppenheimer’s honours board.
Gosden certainly knows all about Oaks winners having saddled three of the last six, so what chances of Frankly Darling following in the hoof prints of Clarehaven Stables residents Taghrooda, Enable and Anapurna?
“Frankly Darling is a lovely filly. She ran only once last year, at Chelmsford. She was a big, rangy girl and a bit unfurnished who needed time to develop. We got a run in and she ran well, and of course she would have gone to the April meeting at Newbury and run in a mile and a quarter fillies’ maiden there and then gone to an Oaks trial, then maybe gone to the Oaks,” said Gosden, speaking after the three-year-old had provided him with a 50th Royal Ascot victory.
“Obviously that all changed. She luckily got in on the first day at Newcastle - they divided a maiden, so she got to run on June 1 and won well.”
“She’s still learning; as you can see, she was a little wild, there’s a bit of Frankel about her - ‘I want to run and it’s my business if I want to run, not the jockey’s - but she showed an awful lot of class today.
“I don’t think I am spoilt for choice for the Oaks. If I have an Oaks filly, it’s her.
“Miss Yoda (ridden by Rab Havlin, finished sixth) ran well, but she showed the affect - you are going to get some horses ‘bounce’ here.
“She had a hard race in the Lingfield Oaks and to come here, she’s done nothing wrong but has run flat.
“She will be freshened up now, but she’s a Listed winner, which is fantastic.
“I think we have one Oaks filly only and we don’t have anything remotely related to a Derby horse. That is the way it is.”
Five-time Oaks-winning jockey Dettori, meanwhile, is confident the filly learned plenty from her outing at the Royal meeting.
“Frankly Darling has got some lungs. We were burning plenty of petrol in the first half of the race,” said the charismatic Italian.
“She was over-racing a bit, but I managed to slow her down on the turn for home.
“I thought she had every chance of stopping if she wanted to, but in fairness she galloped out really well. She has got some lungs let me tell you.
“I guess it is all systems go for Epsom for the Oaks. If John and Mr Oppenheimer decide to go down that route I would be delighted. Frankly Darling learned a bit today and she is very exciting.”