05/29/2007 11:00PM

Cecil's two loom large in English Oaks


Henry Cecil has not won the English Oaks since 1999, but at Epsom on Friday the legendary trainer will saddle the two favorites for the $731,000, 1 1/2-mile filly classic, Passage of Time and Light Shift, as he goes after his eighth Oaks triumph.

Passage of Time will be the short-priced choice at about 7-4. A daughter of Dansili from the family of 1992 Oaks runner-up All at Sea, she prepped with a neck victory in the 1 5/16-mile Group 3 Musidora Stakes, six months after defeating colts in her 2-year-old finale, the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

The closeness of her Musidora victory might have been caused by a throat abscess, which Cecil is reluctant to treat until after the Oaks. It has not troubled her in morning workouts, but in a race of this kind even a seemingly benign ailment can make the difference between victory and defeat. Richard Hughes will have the job of directing Passage of Time around Epsom's hilly, tricky track.

The Kingmambo filly Light Shift is coming off a win in the listed 1 3/8-mile Cheshire Oaks, but 5-1 co-second choice Dalvina may be even more dangerous off her six-length score in the listed 1 1/4-mile Pretty Polly Stakes. Dalvina is trained by Ed Dunlop.

The John Oxx-trained Four Winds earned her Oaks credentials with a handy win in the 1 1/4-mile Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes at Naas and should stay the Oaks distance since she is by Sinndar out of a Darshaan mare.

Godolphin will run its 1 1/4-mile listed winner Measured Tempo, a Sadler's Wells half-sister to 1 1/2-mile French Derby winner Anabaa Blue, while the best of the four Aidan O'Brien-trained entries is All My Loving, the Cheshire Oaks runner-up who is a Sadler's Wells half-sister to Oaks runners-up Yesterday and Quarter Moon.

The selection, however, is Simply Perfect. Last September's Group 1 Fillies Mile winner, she was third behind the redoubtable Finsceal Beo in the 1000 Guineas. A Jeremy Noseda-trained daughter of Danehill, Simply Perfect should appreciate the step up in trip and will have Johnny Murtagh in the saddle.

The Group 1, $487,000 Coronation Cup on the Oaks undercard is usually one Europe's best 1 1/2-mile races. In Friday's renewal are three Group 1 winners - St. Leger champ and recent 1 1/2-mile Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes winner Sixties Icon; last year's Epsom Derby winner Sir Percy, who is coming off a good fourth in the Dubai Sheema Classic; and the 2005 Grand Prix de Paris and St. Leger winner Scorpion, who must redeem himself after a string of subpar starts.

Group 2 winner Maraahel, coming off two Group 3 wins, is a threat. But most feared is Scorpion's O'Brien-trained stablemate Septimus, the winner of last year's Group 2 Dante Stakes. His Group 3 Mooresbridge Stakes win off an 11-month injury layoff makes him easy to back at 4-1.