The Musidora Stakes, a mile and a quarter Group 3 open to three-year-old fillies, is a leading trial for the Oaks, with six winners of the race having gone on to achieve victory at Epsom the following month—the first was Noblesse in 1963, and the most recent was Sariska in 2009. The 2015 winner Star of Seville, on the other hand, went on to land the Prix de Diane, the French equivalent of the Oaks, for trainer John Gosden, who will again saddle the likely favourite as he and Frankie Dettori bid for a fourth consecutive victory in this race…
By the same sire as Enable, a first Classic winner for Nathaniel in the 2017 Oaks, Highgarden looked a good prospect in justifying short odds at the first time of asking at Newbury in October, hitting the front over a furlong out and keeping on well to win in dominant fashion. There was plenty of encouragement to be taken from her return at Sandown last month, too, though finishing only third at 11/10-on, as she still looked green and was only really hitting top gear in the latter stages. She is expected to improve significantly with that outing under her belt and it would be no surprise if she were to enhance her Oaks credentials with a bold show here.
A winner of a minor event at Lingfield in September, Give And Take proved better than ever when second in the Sandown race that played host to Highgarden’s return, no sooner wearing down the leading pair than overwhelmed by the promising Crystal Hope inside the final furlong. With just a length and a quarter between her and Highgarden on that occasion, the pair are seemingly very closely matched, though John Gosden’s filly is perhaps open to the more improvement after just two starts.
Top on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings and the main threat to that pair according to the betting is the Ralph Beckett-trained Ceilidhs Dream. She stepped up markedly on her debut form when getting off the mark at Newmarket last month, forced to deliver her challenge from the rear after a slow break and ultimately doing well to run down the runner-up with a bit in hand. The front two were clear of the rest and she looks likely to go on improving, while it is worth noting that she is not entered in the Oaks, far from guaranteed to stay a mile and a half on breeding (half-sister to a five-furlong winner).
Dancing Brave Bear and Ejtyah come into this race with similarly unexposed profiles, unbeaten in three combined starts. The former followed up her debut success with a comfortable victory at Chelmsford last time, leaving the impression this longer trip will be well within her range, and it would be no surprise if there were more to come on her turf debut, while Ejtyah was value for more than the official winning margin when making a winning debut, also at Chelmsford, in December. She did well to win given how the race developed that day (came from rear in a steadily-run race) and is open to considerable progress, with David Simcock’s filly likely to relish the extra two furlongs here.
The form of Lubinka’s sixth in the Fillies’ Mile is among the best on offer in this field, but she has less scope for improvement than most than this line up and looks likely to come up a bit short, a comment that also applies to recent Beverley winner Expensive Liaison.
In summary, it could pay to concentrate on the top three in the betting here, with Highgarden fancied to show the benefit of her return with a second career victory. Her connections know what it takes to win this race and it is worth remembering the excellent impression she created on her debut in the autumn.
Back Highgarden in the Musidora Stakes at York on Wednesday