Aviate takes off in Oaks market
Henry Cecil's faith in Timepiece has been unshakeable but it was Aviate who flew past her stablemate in the Investec Oaks betting as she overcame a troubled passage to take the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York.
Cecil sent Timepiece down his familiar Lingfield Oaks Trial route, which he has farmed with the likes of Epsom winners Ramruma and Lady Carla, last weekend but the one-time Oaks favourite paid the penalty for chasing a frenetic pace when beaten into second.
That cleared the way for the fellow Khalid Abdullah-owned Aviate to jet along the rail on the Knavesmire and successfully step up to a mile and a quarter under Eddie Ahern -- replacing the suspended Tom Queally.
The 11-4 winner scraped across the line with a head to spare over the hanging Gold Bubbles, with Michael Stoute's Eleanora Duse a close-up third.
Cecil has amassed eight Oaks victories over the years and although Timepiece has been beaten twice this season, he still rates her alongside names such as Oh So Sharp and Diminuendo after their Classic wins in the mid 1980s.
Sariska completed the Musidora-Oaks double last year and Coral make Aviate their new 4-1 market leader, with Timepiece available at 8s.
Other layers were more restrained with Ladbrokes trimming the winner to 8-1 from 16s, while Sky Bet also went 8-1 after laying the daughter of Dansili heavily post-race at 10s.
Cecil said: "We ran her to see if she stays but she's got a cross of Nijinsky on both the sire and dam side, so there was a bit of stamina there. I was hopeful she would (stay), otherwise I would have run in the race over a mile here later in the week.
"She's a nice filly but you couldn't see how good she was because she didn't get a clear run. What they should have done was spread out to let her come through -- then we'd have seen what she really was.
"It is now a question of whether we go to the English Oaks or the French Oaks, or whether Timepiece goes to the Oaks or Ribblesdale or vice versa.
"I would like to say to the Prince that I would run one here and one there rather than run two in the Oaks."
Ahern added of the winner: "She travelled very well but when I wanted a gap there was no room and I had to just go through the motions.
"They then sprinted for the line and she got me out of a lot of trouble because I'd have got a lot of stick if she'd got beat. I switched her back onto the inside and she quickened really well."
Despite Cecil appearing to hint that only one of the fillies will turn up at Epsom on June 4, Abdullah's racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe said their participation is not mutually dependent.
"Running plans will be decided on the individual merits of each filly," said Grimthorpe.
Jim Bolger's Gold Bubbles improved markedly for the step up in trip and her jockey, Kevin Manning, said: "She ran a great race and I'm happy with her."
Manning was banned for three days (May 26-28) for careless riding.
Eleanora Duse's trainer added: "I'm thrilled. She's from a lovely Ballymacoll Stud family, so they'll be very pleased."