The five best Epsom Oaks winners of the 21st century including Enable, Snowfall, Love...

The biggest race on the fillies' calendar is almost upon us, with Emily Upjohn the short-priced favourite. Planet Sport's Jonathan Doidge looks back on some classic Oaks performances.

The second-oldest of the five Classics on the British racing calendar, the Oaks was inaugurated in 1779.

Musidora, after whom last week's York trial won by Emily Upjohn was named, triumphed in 1949. It was also another Classic in which the great Lester Piggott excelled, winning the race on six occasions. Frankie Dettori equalled that when taking the prize on Snowfall last year.

So does Snowfall make the cut in our top five of the 21st Century? Read on to find out.

Ouija Board (2004)

Beaten in Listed company at two, this daughter of Cape Cross always looked likely to make a better three-year-old, and how!

The whispers were clearly audible when she returned to action at three in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket's 2004 Guineas meeting.

Stepped up to 1m2f, she destroyed a promising field and had six lengths to spare over runner-up Sahool, a subsequent dual Group 2 second.

Come the big day at Epsom Downs in June, the Ed Dunlop-trained filly went off as the 7/2 third favourite, with the market preferring the claims of the Aidan O'Brien-trained All Too Beautiful and the Godolphin-owned Punctilious.

Having dwelt at the start, Kieren Fallon let Ouija Board take her time to get into the contest from the rear. Turning in, she had improved to fourth but when given the office by her jockey, the impact was devastating.

Leading at the two furlong pole, she stormed clear before the furlong marker and put the race to bed in a matter of strides. It was breathtaking.

Her official winning margin was seven lengths and she then went on to win the Irish Oaks on her next start, plus the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf in the autumn.

She bowed out gloriously at four when winning the richest prize of her career, the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin in December 2005.

Dancing Rain (2011)

If ever there was a low key start for a Classic winner, then going off at 22/1 and being beaten in a Yarmouth fillies' maiden as a juvenile has to be up there. However, this Danehill Dancer filly learned quickly.

By the start of her three-year-old campaign, she was good enough to winning a Newbury fillies' maiden, before making a marked improvement to go close back over the same C&D in Listed company.

While that was a good effort, it didn't appear to indicate what we were about to see at Epsom.

With six fillies preferred to her in the market, there appeared to be little expectation placed on the 20/1 chance. She confounded all that.

The brilliant former jockey Johnny Murtagh has to take plenty of credit for the ride he gave her that day. Leading from when the gates went back, he kicked off the steady gallop he had made and went clear over a mile out.

Taking his foot off the pedal for a while, he allowed the field to come to him with half a mile still to run and most would have thought she'd have been swallowed up by the chasing pack. Not a bit of it.

Kicking on again, Murtagh got them all on the stretch and despite the attentions of the staying-on Wonder Of Wonders for Aidan O'Brien, she ran on gamely to score by three and a quarter lengths, with four lengths back to the third. Memorable.

This was another vastly improved effort and she showed it to be no fluke when winning the German version of the race in August 2011 and also the Group 2 Fillies and Mares Stakes at Ascot that October.

Enable (2017)

Consistently brilliant, that was Enable and this darling of the racecourse was always a nailed-on cert to be a part of this list.

An All Weather winner at Newcastle on her debut in November 2016, she went on to reach the ceiling of her abilities at three, enjoying a season that was scarcely believable.

Beaten in her first three-year-old start at Newbury, she first came to real prominence when winning the Listed Cheshire Oaks at Chester in May 2017.

However, Rhododendron, who had won the Group 1 Fillies' Mile at two and finished runner-up to Winter in the 1,000 Guineas, was a hot favourite to win the Blue Riband event at Epsom.

Ridden just off the pace by Frankie Dettori, the filly went past the pacesetters with Rhododendron upsides well over 2f out and battle commenced.

The further they went the better Enable was, however, accounting for the 'jolly' by the furlong pole and then stretching clear in hugely impressive fashion to win by five lengths.

It was a magnificent performance from one of the greatest middle distance fillies' we've seen. Together with Dettori, she'd mopped up the Irish Oaks, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, the Yorkshire Oaks and Europe's biggest prize, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe by the end of the season.

She repeated the latter feat in 2018, when she also won the Breeders' Cup Turf, going on to add four more Group 1s to her CV before she was retired at the end of her six-year-old season in 2020.

Love (2020)

Like most of this list, Love's career did not get off to a winning start. In fact, it took her three races to get the hang of things.

However, she built steadily throughout her juvenile campaign and eventually won the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes on her sixth start.

Having finished third in Newmarket's Fillies' Mile, she was targeted at the 1,000 Guineas to kick-off her three-year-old campaign and duly dotted up by over four lengths from Cloak Of Spirits.

The decision was taken to step her up to 1m4f in the Oaks and, given she is by Galileo, it was no surprise that it suited her down to the ground.

Her chief rival was Frankly Darling, representing the John Gosden/Frankie Dettori combination. They had won the Group 2 Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot from Ennistyman and were 7/4 second favourites for the big one, which in 2020 was being run in July, due to the Covid-19 lockdown preventing it from taking place in June.

Love was devastating. Making ground at will as they came off Tattenham Corner, jockey Ryan Moore sent her to the front over two furlongs out, from which point she destroyed the field by nine lengths.

It truly was sensational and even if Frankly Darling had handled the track (her trainer reported that she hadn't) she would have been very hard pressed to get the better of the winner. As it was, she was third, behind Ennistyman.

Love went unbeaten in just three starts in that 2020 campaign, also adding the Yorkshire Oaks in August.

She raced on at four, getting the ball rolling with Royal Ascot success in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes but she was unable to add any further wins in four more starts prior to retirement.

Snowfall (2022)

A little like her predecessor from the Aidan O'Brien stable, Snowfall had a busy two-year-old campaign without huge success, winning just one of her seven starts.

However, she too made great strides at three. Her decisive Group 3 Musidora Stakes win at York was a signal of intent and also of significant improvement.

What she produced next was nothing short of sensational! Allowed to go off at 11/2 for the Oaks, Frankie Dettori held her up before making smooth headway after they had levelled up for home.

Unusually, on the good to soft ground, they came across to the nearside rail where Snowfall cruised up to Mystery Angel over two out, with Frankie oozing confidence.

From there it was a procession, the jockey merely shaking the reins and then pushing her out to go further and further clear.

In his excitement, commentator Simon Holt said she'd won it "by a mile!" She almost had, for 16-lengths was the official, record margin of victory. Simply stunning.

Proving that was no fluke, she put over eight lengths between herself and the Irish Oaks field next time and also went on to win the Yorkshire Oaks by four.

Sadly, things petered out slightly over the course of her next three runs, before the devastating news that, after being injured in her box in January 2022, she had to be put to sleep.

My top five Oaks performances of the 21st century

1 Ouija Board (2004)

2 Enable (2017)

3 Love (2020)

4 Snowfall (2022)

5 Dancing Rain (2011)

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