It was an afternoon that Ralph Beckett will never forget, and a result that was more than he could ever have hoped for. Talent was the unexpected winner of the Investec Oaks after beating her stablemate, Secret Gesture, by nearly four lengths in a historic and thrilling finish at Epsom. Secret Gesture carried more stable confidence after her easy 10-length win in the Lingfield Oaks Trial and was 3-1 second favourite at the off, but she had an unhelpful draw, always having to fight for her position under Jim Crowley and getting stuck on the fence. Meanwhile, Talent, the 20-1 outsider, had a clear passage on the outside of the field, and she picked up and ran home strongly, giving Richard Hughes his second British Classic in less than four weeks. He had only won his first British Classic on May 5th in the 1,000 Guineas on Sky Lantern, after 25 years of trying.
The last time Ralph won the Oaks was with Look Here in 2008, and he was ecstatic after this win, having trained the first two home. “It doesn’t happen, does it?” he said, “I never thought I’d win one Oaks. To win two is extraordinary, and to finish first and second means everything. I’m not Aiden O’Brien; we don’t normally have two runners in Classics in a year, let alone two in the same race. It’s amazing, and we’ll certainly enjoy it.”
Ralph is the first trainer since Sir Noel Murless to have both the winner and the runner-up in The Oaks 42 years ago. Back in 1971, Murless’ first string was 1,000 Guineas winner, Altesse Royale, ridden by Geoff Lewis, and she beat her stablemate, Maina, by 3 lengths under Lester Piggott.
Secret Gesture did nothing wrong in second, running an outstanding race, but Talent saved her best for the racecourse. Richard Hughes said “I knew five furlongs out that she’d win” despite being very disappointed after riding her in her final piece of work. “She only went five and a half furlongs but she gave me no feel at all”, he said. But it was a different story at Epsom. The two fillies may well line up together again in the Irish Oaks.
The result is a truly fantastic start to what promises to be a tremendous season for Ralph. Congratulations to all of the team at Kimpton Down Stables, and to each of the fillies’ connections.