LONDON – Was (20-1) was a surprise winner of the Investec Oaks at Epsom for trainer Aidan O’Brien and jockey Seamie Heffernan on Friday.
Well-backed from prices as big as 50-1 in the morning, Was travelled through the race in a good position under Heffernan who stuck to the rail throughout.
As Mick Channon’s front-running Nayarra fell away in the straight Was took it up on the inside and stuck on gamely to hold off the late challenges of Shirocco Star (16-1) and The Fugue (11-4 favourite).
Even with Kissed having been withdrawn earlier in the day, Was featured among five O’Brien-trained fillies in the race, with 1000 Guineas third Maybe the most fancied.
Was won her only juvenile appearance at the Curragh last August, but was beaten into third in last month’s Blue Wind Stakes at Naas.
In a race where it proved sensible to be prominent off a slow gallop, the three-year-old showed plenty of dash to claim a surprise victory.
Shirocco Star’s run was particularly meritorious given she was fractious in the preliminaries.
The Fugue and William Buick were short of room in the early stages and ended up further back than ideal, but she finished off her race well and arguably goes down as an unlucky loser.
Vow travelled like the winner for a long way and ran a creditable race in fourth.
Maybe was another filly who was a long way back for much of the journey in the hands of the trainer’s son, Joseph, before staying on for fifth.
Heffernan said: “I had enough horse to take two lengths when I needed it. “I’ve been very lucky in these colours and I have the owners to thank for trusting me.
“I was on the bridle and had plenty of petrol. When you have plenty of petrol you can go where you like.”
O’Brien was securing his fourth Oaks success, with his last victory in the Epsom Classic arriving with Alexandrova in 2006, and his 200th victory at the highest level.
The master of Ballydoyle was also preserving his unbeaten record in British Classics this term after Camelot and Homecoming Queen struck in the 2000 and 1000 Guineas respectively.
O’Brien said: “Seamus gave her a lovely ride, she came on lovely from her first run so we were delighted.
“She’s a very good looking filly with a great pedigree. He’s a great fellow, Seamus, a world-class jockey. He knows all these horses inside out and and nobody deserves it more.”
O’Brien said of Maybe, who ran on to take fifth: “She ran well, she was coming there and coming there but 200m might be as far as she wants to go.”
Was now has the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh in July as a possible conditional aim.
O’Brien said: “There’s no doubt she’s progressing all the time and she’s a filly who we are really looking forward to.
“It (the Irish Oaks) is possible, but we need to let the boys speak about things during the week.”
Maybe could revert to a mile for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot later in the month.
O’Brien said: “She might even go back (in trip) to the Coronation – she has a miler’s pace.”
Darryll Holland, rider of Shirocco Star, said: “I don’t think she was unlucky. The way the race was run it was a bit tactical.
“The winner had the rail and kept outbattling me towards the end.
“I was pressing the button at the furlong marker but the other horse just pulled out a bit more.
“I needed a better gallop and I had to be handier than I wanted to be at an earlier stage.”
Johnny Murtagh said of Vow: “They went very slow and I thought I had it at one stage but I thought she’d quicken better than she did.” – Press Association.