Classic delight for Sheikh Hamdan in English Oaks at Epsom

Taghrooda wins in grand fashion at the English Oaks followed by Tarfasha as Sheikh Hamdan's runners finish one-two, reports Geoffrey Riddle.

Jockey Paul Hanagan, blue and white, rides Taghrooda to a win in the English Oaks. Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images
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Epsom, England // Taghrooda brought to an end Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid’s Group 1 drought in Britain in spectacular style in the English Oaks on Friday.

For the final 400 metres of a punishing race, Taghrooda led an elite band of fillies and her dominance at the line was such that she won by almost four lengths.

Next home was Sheikh Hamdan’s other runner Tarfasha to give the high-profile owner a dream result.

Taghrooda also gave jockey Paul Hanagan and trainer John Gosden their first wins in the fillies’ Classic, and their owner a third after Salsabil in 1990 and Eswarah in 2005. It was Sheikh Hamdan’s first winner at the highest level in England since Awzaan in 2009.

“The Guineas and the Oaks are the races that I really want to win as an owner,” Sheikh Hamdan said, as both Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, and his wife, Princess Haya, looked on.

Tarfasha played her role and ate up ground to secure second, while Godolphin’s dual UAE Classic winner Ihtimal took fifth behind Volume and Inchila.

Gosden and the connections of Tarfasha suggested there could be a rematch on July 19 when the Curragh stages the Irish Oaks.

Taghrooda is unbeaten in three runs. She started off late in a maiden in September and her victory last month in the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket by six lengths hinted that she was something special. According to her owner, there is more to come.

“She was the most beautiful yearling, last year I kept asking John when she was going to see the course and he just kept saying wait,” Sheikh Hamdan said.

“When she won, she only won by a head which to me is not enough but this year she is more mature.”

It was Hanagan’s first Oaks ride but, like an old pro, he made sure he was just off the pace in the early stages but had to cede the rail.

Climbing up the Epsom hill proved little problem but, as the field swept down Tattenham Corner, Anipa bumped Taghrooda, which put her out of her stride.

Epsom’s camber has put an end to the challenge of some of the most balanced fillies down the years and for a moment Taghrooda was leading with the wrong leg, which threatened to pull her away from the rail and into oblivion.

Hanagan was gentle in righting the error and revved up his mount for the charge home.

As leader Volume reached the straight to signal there was 600 metres to go, Tarfasha and Pat Smullen were hot on Taghrooda’s heels. It was never enough.

For Hanagan, the win finally proved the doubters wrong. His record at Epsom has been modest, but the statistics never reveal the lack of quality he had been riding here over the years.

“This feels great,” Hanagan said. “This is what I’ve worked hard for all my life. I am so pleased for the team. They have shown so much faith in me and this feels like I’ve given something back.”

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