06/01/2011 12:37PM

Blue Bunting the English Oaks favorite


Since October, Blue Bunting has been ranked as a top candidate for Friday’s Group 1 English Oaks by Sheikh Mohammed’s powerful Godolphin Racing stable. Her recent victory in the English 1000 Guineas has made Blue Bunting an even stronger favorite for the Oaks, which is run over about 1 1/2 miles on turf at Epsom Downs and carries a purse of approximately $533,000.

A Kentucky-bred by Dynaformer, Blue Bunting won the English 1000 Guineas in a 16-1 upset over a mile on turf at Newmarket on May 1, a distance that Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford thought was too short for her best race.

“She is bred to stay much further and has always looked like she wants to a mile and a half,” Crisford said on Godolphin’s webstie last week. “Winning the Guineas was a fantastic bonus.

“Blue Bunting has done extremely well since the Guineas, has gained a little bit of weight, looks fantastic, and her work has been very nice. Everything is positive.”

Wednesday, Blue Bunting was listed as the 2-1 favorite by British bookmakers for the Oaks, which has drawn a field of 13. Blue Bunting, purchased for $200,000 at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton yearling sale at Saratoga, has won 2 of 3 starts, with all the races at Newmarket. She won her second start in the Montrose Stakes over a mile last October, which prompted discussions about the English Oaks.

Blue Bunting must beat the improving Wonder of Wonders, the winner of the Cheshire Oaks at Chester Racecourse by 2 3/4 lengths on May 4 for trainer Aidan O’Brien. Wonder of Wonders beat maidens in her third start, which came at Tipperary, Ireland, on April 28.

O’Brien also starts Misty for Me, the winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas on May 22 who was 11th in the English 1000 Guineas. Misty for Me won two Group 1 races at 2 – the Moyglare Stud Stakes in Ireland and the Prix Marcel Boussac in France.

◗ O’Brien has the leading contender for Friday’s Group 1 Coronation Cup for older horses with St. Nicholas Abbey, a nine-length winner of the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes at Chester on May 6. A 4-year-old Irish-bred colt, St. Nicholas Abbey will be after his second Group 1 win, having won the Racing Post Trophy for 2-year-olds in 2009.

St. Nicholas Abbey made one start at 3, finishing sixth as the even-money favorite in the English 2000 Guineas.

St. Nicholas Abbey is favored, but there will be strong support for Midday, the winner of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita in 2009. A 5-year-old, Midday was second in the 2010 BC Filly and Mare Turf and won the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York last month in her first start of the year. The Coronation Cup, which is run over about 1 1/2 miles, will be her first start against males since a second in a conditions race at Epsom in April 2009. Midday is seeking her sixth Grade 1 or Group 1win.