The Oaks Stakes preceded the Epsom Derby by one year, being first raced in 1779 and is consequently steeped in history and prestige as the forerunner to numerous “Oaks” races around the world which are exclusively for the very best fillies.

The event is named after The Oaks, an estate located to the east of Epsom which was leased to the 12th Earl of Derby in the 18th century. He and his guests devised the race during a party at the estate in 1778. It was first run in 1779, one year before the introduction of the Derby Stakes. The inaugural winner, Bridget, was owned by Lord Derby himself.

The Oaks is the third of Britain’s five Classic races to be held during the season, and the second of two restricted to fillies. It can also serve as the middle leg of the Fillies’ Triple Crown, preceded by the 1,000 Guineas and followed by the St Leger and last won by the legendary Oh So Sharp in 1985.

The mile and a half test of three year old fillies around Epsom Downs is a major test of temperament, stamina and balance and has been won by some of the great fillies of Turf history.

Jockey Dick Goodisson won the first three renewals of the Oaks on Bridget in 1779, Tetotum in 1780 and Faith the following year, but the most successful Oaks jockey of all time hailed from the same era and was Frank Buckle.

In all Buckle won the Oaks 9 times: Nike (1797), Bellissima (1798), Bellina (1799), Scotia (1802), Theophania (1803), Meteora (1805), Neva (1817), Corinne (1818), Zinc (1823).

However his riding accomplishment could not match the training feat of Robert Robson who won the race now fewer than 13 times: Scotia (1802), Pelisse (1804), Meteora (1805), Briseis (1807), Morel (1808), Maid of Orleans (1809), Music (1813), Minuet (1815), Landscape (1816), Corinne (1818), Pastille (1822), Zinc (1823), Wings (1825).

One of the outstanding winners of the 19th Century was Crucifix in 1840, a filly who deserves to be mentioned among the all-time great fillies in history. She was unbeaten in 9 races at two and raced three times in 1840, winning the 1,000 Guineas, beating the colts in the 2,000 Guineas and then landing the Oaks.

It was reported that the Epsom race suffered multiple false starts which delayed the race by an hour. At stud she was the dam of Derby winner Surplice.

Another superstar from the era was Formosa, who became the first to win the Fillies’ Triple Crown and for good measure dead-heated with Moslem in the 2,000 Guineas, meaning she won four of the five Classics on a remarkable season.

In 1876 Camelia and Enguerrande dead-heated for the Oaks; this was the second time a dead-heat had been recorded, however in 1858, Governess defeated Gildermire in a run-off.

The 20th Century had barely begun when the outstanding Sceptre won the 1902 Oaks, one of four Classic triumphs that year, making her the only horse to achieve this feat outright. She may well have won the Derby too but bruised a foot days beforehand and in the event ran well to finish fourth to Ard Patrick.

Just two years later came the brilliant Irish filly Pretty Polly, who won 15 consecutive races including the Fillies’ Triple Crown of 1904.

Signorinetta won both the Derby and Oaks in 1908. Another outstanding pre-war filly was Rockfel, who in 1938 landed the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and Champion Stakes.

In 1918 the race was run at Newmarket and won by Stony Ford who was subsequently disqualified for causing interference to My Dear, who was awarded the race.

A year later the French-bred Galatea also completed the Guineas-Oaks double and Godiva repeated the feat in 1940 although her Oaks was a wartime replacement at Newmarket.

Sun Chariot won the Fillies’ Triple Crown in 1942, with the Oaks once again run at Newmarket because of World War II. In the St Leger this great filly defeated the Derby winner Watling Street.

In 1945 Sun Stream won the last substitute Oaks at Newmarket, having already won the 1,000 Guineas. Musidora completed that double in 1949 and York’s high profile Oaks trial to this day is run in her name.

In 1955 the exceptional Meld became the fourth filly in the 20th Century to win the Fillies’ Triple Crown and two years later the Queen provided Lester Piggott with the first of his six Oaks wins when Carrozza was successful.

Two years later Piggott’s second Oaks was achieved on the brilliant grey filly Petite Etoile, who also accomplished the Guineas-Oaks double in 1957 and proved top class for another two seasons.

Never Too Late and Sweet Solera ensured that the Guineas-Oaks double took place on three successive years and the 1960s continued to make their mark when the Irish filly Noblesse slaughtered her Oaks rivals by 10 lengths in 1963.

Sir Noel Murless enjoyed a purple patch with the Oaks during this era and Carrozza and Petite Etoile were followed by Lupe and Altesse Royale winning in 1970 and 1971. The latter filly also won the English 1,000 Guineas and the Irish Oaks. Mysterious landed a fifth Oaks for Murless in 1973 and she too had also won the Guineas.

The French filly Pawneese won the Oaks in 1976 and followed up with victory in the King George at Ascot and a year later, in Silver Jubilee year, the Queen’s Dunfermline won the Oaks before inflicting a memorable defeat on the outstanding Alleged in the St Leger.

The following year saw Sir Michael Stoute win his first English Classic through Fair Salinia and the 1980s brought further top class winners.

Time Charter and Billy Newnes win the 1982 Oaks from Slightly Dangerous and Last Feather
Image by www.cranhamphoto.com

Blue Wind romped home in the 1981 Oaks for trainer Dermot Weld and jockey Lester Piggott and in 1982 the brilliant race mare Time Charter won her first Group 1 in a top class renewal. She would later win a Sun Chariot Stakes, Champion Stakes, Coronation Cup and King George in a stellar career.

In 1983 the maiden Sun Princess won the Oaks on soft ground, landing the race by a record margin of 12 lengths. Sun Princess went on to prove herself outstanding, winning the Yorkshire Oaks and just failing in the Arc.

Lester Piggott’s final Oaks victory came courtesy of Circus Plume in 1984 but during that season he had also ridden the next Oaks winner.

Oh So Sharp (seen winning the 1985 Oaks) won the St Leger
Image by www.cranhamphoto.com

Sadly for Piggott, he had been replaced as Sir Henry Cecil’s stable jockey by Steve Cauthen for the 1985 season – and missed the plum ride in the Classics on the chestnut filly Oh So Sharp. Having shown devastating speed to get up in the 1,000 Guineas from a seemingly hopeless position a furlong out, she showed guts and class on rain-softened ground to defeat top class fillies like Bella Colora and Triptych in the Oaks, before landing the Fillies’ Triple Crown in the St Leger. No colt or filly has won a Triple Crown since.

In 1986 Midway Lady became the latest dual Guineas-Oaks heroine for jockey Ray Cochrane and in 1987 Unite won a sad Oaks which saw her main rival Scimitarra break down when challenging in the home straight.

Both fillies were owned by Sheikh Mohamed who had become a major influence on British racing at this time, having already won the race with Oh So Sharp and come close before then with Awaasif.

In 1988 Sheikh Mohamed won the race again with Sir Henry Cecil’s tiny filly Diminuendo, who duly won the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks.

Controversy courted the 1989 race when the Aga Khan filly Aliysa won the race easily but was subsequently disqualified when the banned substance Camphor was found in her blood system. The race was consequently awarded to the Sir Henry Cecil filly Snow Bride, who would later foal the great Derby winner Lammtarra.

In 1990 another exceptional filly landed the Guineas-Oaks double when Salsabil won impressively at Epsom. Later that month she impressed again with a superb defeat of the Derby winner Quest For Fame and the King George winner Belmez, when she won the Irish Derby in brilliant style.

There was a surprise outcome in 1991, when the hot favourite and 1,000 Guineas winner Shadayid failed to stay and the race was won in runaway fashion by the Jim Bolger trained Jetski Lady.

In 1992 Clive Brittain’s User Friendly put her inexperience to one side and routed the hot favourite All At Sea, before winning the Irish Oaks and St Leger and narrowly failing in the Arc.

Intrepidity won the race in 1993, another Sheikh Mohammed filly she was trained by Andre Fabre in France and broke the track record for the race.

Salsabil’s feat of winning the Oaks and Irish Derby was emulated a year later as Sheikh Mohammed’s experimental Godolphin operation – which saw horses shipped to Dubai for the winter months, proved a huge success with the victory of Balanchine. The filly had just lost in the 1,000 Guineas but provided Frankie Dettori with a first English Classic win and followed-up with victory in the Irish Derby over King George winner King’s Theatre.

Another Godolphin filly won the following year in the shape of Moonshell, a filly formerly trained by Sir Henry Cecil.

But Cecil would gain his revenge and enjoyed his own purple patch at this time. Lady Carla annihilated her field in 1996 and in 1997 another Cecil filly Reams Of Verse won the race. Two years later it was the turn of Ramruna and in 2000 Love Divine made it four Cecil victories in five renewals.

In between, Shahtoush had the race for Ireland’s up and coming trainer Aidan O’Brien and his Imagine ended the Cecil run in 2001.

Godolphin were back in the winner’s enclosure in 2002 when Kazzia completed the Guineas-Oaks double and the following year new trainer Andrew Balding enjoyed a massive day when Casual Look won.

Ouija Board was a brilliant race mare, winning the 2004 Oaks

Kieren Fallon had won two Oaks for Sir Henry Cecil and captured his third victory in 2004 aboard the smart Ouija Board. The filly went on to win multiple Group 1 races including the Irish Oaks, Nassau Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Fillies’ and Mare’s Turf.

The lightly-raced Eswarah won the race for trainer Michael Jarvis in 2005 and then O’Brien landed his third win (and Fallon’s fourth) as Alexandrova proved too good .

From around the turn of the Century, Sir Henry Cecil’s fortunes started to take a major downturn and by 2005 he was at the lowest ebb of his training career. Having been sadly diagnosed with cancer, in 2007 the Cecil renaissance began in earnest with two runners in the Oaks. The favourite was the impressive filly Passage Of Time but he had an able second string in Light Shift and it was the latter who proved fleet of foot and recorded an emotional victory, beating the outstanding filly Peeping Fawn – Cecil’s eighth and final Oaks.

The 2008 renewal was won impressively by Ralph Becket who by contrast to Cecil, was winning his first Classic. A year later two very good fillies fought out the finish and it was Sariska, who would win the Irish Oaks too, who got the better of Cecil’s Midday.

In 2010 another outstanding filly did the Epsom-Curragh double in the form of the globetrotting Snow Fairy. In a glittering career, Snow Fairy progressed from handicapper to Oaks heroine and later won major races in France, Ireland and Japan.

Dancing Rain was brilliantly ridden to victory by Johnny Murtagh in 2011 and Was landed Aidan O’Brien’s fourth Oaks a year later, as he also won the Derby with Camelot.

Talent won the Investec Oaks in 2013
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Epsom Downs Racecourse

In 2013 the Oaks went to Ralph Becket again as his filly Talent beat her more fancied stable mate Secret Gesture in a memorable one-two for the trainer.

Taghrooda storms clear in the 2014 Investec Oaks
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Epsom Downs Racecourse

A year later, there was another familiar winner as H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum enjoyed a one-two courtesy of his brilliant fillies Tarfasha and the outstanding winner Taghrooda.

The John Gosden trained filly would go on to land the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, the first Oaks winner to do so since Time Charter.

Qualify (right) gets up to land the Investec Oaks from Legatissimo and Lady Of Dubai
Image by www.healyracing.ie

In 2015 the Oaks threw up a real shock as the Aidan O’Brien trained Qualify got the better of Guineas winner Legatissimo in a rough race.

Minding beats Architecture in the Investec Oaks
Image by A.J. Byles

A year later, O’Brien was once again successful, as the brilliant filly Minding, already the winner of the Qipco 1,000 Guineas, doubled-up in the Oaks.

Her performance was all the more impressive, as she had been badly hampered during the race, but showed a terrific turn of foot to still win the race.

If Minding proved a superstar, so too did the 2017 winner of the Oaks.

Enable beats Rhododendron in the 2017 Investec Oaks
Image by www.racehorsephotos.co.uk

Enable was largely unheard of in the spring of 2017, yet by season’s end, the entire racing world was heralding Prince Khaled Abdullah’s daughter of Nathaniel.

Her run of victories started in the Cheshire Oaks, but she was taking a big step up in class at Epsom, where her opposition included the Group One winner Rhododendron.

The race was run in a dramatic thunderstorm which darkened Epsom Downs and produced a tremendous downpour of rain.

Racing down Tattenham Hill, the race lay between the two stars and it was Enable who showed the greater resolve to win under Frankie Dettori.

Enable added the Irish Oaks a few weeks later and then beat the older horses in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. A Yorkshire Oaks victory followed, before Enable crowned her season with a brilliant victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Forever Together and Donnacha O’Brien win the Investec Oaks
Image by www.healyracing.ie

Enable’s victory had halted a hat-trick of wins in the race for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

However, the Ballydoyle trainer fielded five of the nine runners in 2018.

It was the pre-eminent sire Galileo, who was responsible for the winning filly, Forever Together.

The filly was ridden by O’Brien’s son Donnacha, who had won his first English Classic aboard Saxon Warrior, in the 2,000 Guineas, a month earlier.

Unusually the field switched to the stands side when in the straight and Forever Together stormed to a four and a half length victory from Wild Illusion.

Forever Together became the first filly to win the Oaks as a maiden, since Sun Princess, in 1983. She had been hampered in the Cheshire Oaks in her previous start.

Forever Together ran twice more, finishing second to Urban Fox in the Pretty Polly Stakes and returning to the Curragh to run a neck second to Sea Of Class, in the Irish Oaks.

In all there have been 9 winners of the Fillies’ Triple Crown, with Oh So Sharp’s 1985 success the latest addition and itself the first in 30 years.

The Oaks roll of honour

Year
Winner
Jockey

1779
Bridget
Dick Goodisson
1780
Tetotum
Dick Goodisson
1781
Faith
Dick Goodisson
1782
Ceres
Sam Chifney
1783
Maid of the Oaks
Sam Chifney
1784
Stella
Charles Hindley
1785
Trifle
J. Bird
1786
Yellow Filly
James Edwards
1787
Annette
Dennis Fitzpatrick
1788
Nightshade
Dennis Fitzpatrick
1789
Tag
Sam Chifney
1790
Hippolyta
Sam Chifney
1791
Portia
John Singleton, Jr.
1792
Volante
Charles Hindley
1793
Caelia
John Singleton, Jr.
1794
Hermione
Sam Arnull
1795
Platina
Dennis Fitzpatrick
1796
Parisot
John Arnull
1797
Nike
Frank Buckle
1798
Bellissima
Frank Buckle
1799
Bellina
Frank Buckle
1800
Ephemera
Dennis Fitzpatrick
1801
Eleanor
John Saunders
1802
Scotia
Frank Buckle
1803
Theophania
Frank Buckle
1804
Pelisse
Bill Clift
1805
Meteora
Frank Buckle
1806
Bronze
William Edwards
1807
Briseis
Sam Chifney, Jr.
1808
Morel
Bill Clift
1809
Maid of Orleans
Ben Moss
1810
Oriana
Bill Peirse
1811
Sorcery
Sam Chifney, Jr.
1812
Manuella
Bill Peirse
1813
Music
Tom Goodisson
1814
Medora
Sam Barnard
1815
Minuet
Tom Goodisson
1816
Landscape
Sam Chifney, Jr.
1817
Neva
Frank Buckle
1818
Corinne
Frank Buckle
1819
Shoveler
Sam Chifney, Jr.
1820
Caroline
Harry Edwards
1821
Augusta
Jem Robinson
1822
Pastille
Harry Edwards
1823
Zinc
Frank Buckle
1824
Cobweb
Jem Robinson
1825
Wings
Sam Chifney, Jr.
1826
Lilias
Tommy Lye
1827
Gulnare
Frank Boyce
1828
Turquoise
John Barham Day
1829
Green Mantle
George Dockeray
1830
Variation
George Edwards
1831
Oxygen
John Barham Day
1832
Galata
Patrick Conolly
1833
Vespa
Jem Chapple
1834
Pussy
John Barham Day
1835
Queen of Trumps
Tommy Lye
1836
Cyprian
Bill Scott
1837
Miss Letty
John Holmes
1838
Industry
Bill Scott
1839
Deception
John Barham Day
1840
Crucifix
John Barham Day
1841
Ghuznee
Bill Scott
1842
Our Nell
Tommy Lye
1843
Poison
Frank Butler
1844
The Princess
Frank Butler
1845
Refraction
Henry Bell
1846
Mendicant
Sam Day
1847
Miami
Sim Templeman
1848
Cymba
Sim Templeman
1849
Lady Evelyn
Frank Butler
1850
Rhedycina
Frank Butler
1851
Iris
Frank Butler
1852
Songstress
Frank Butler
1853
Catherine Hayes
Charlie Marlow
1854
Mincemeat
Jack Charlton
1855
Marchioness
Sim Templeman
1856
Mincepie
Alfred Day
1857
Blink Bonny
Jack Charlton
1858
Governess
Tom Ashmall
1859
Summerside
George Fordham
1860
Butterfly
Jim Snowden
1861
Brown Duchess
Luke Snowden
1862
Feu de Joie
Tom Chaloner
1863
Queen Bertha
Tom Aldcroft
1864
Fille de l’Air
Arthur Edwards
1865
Regalia
John Norman
1866
Tormentor
Jimmy Mann
1867
Hippia
John Daley
1868
Formosa
George Fordham
1869
Brigantine
Tom Cannon, Sr.
1870
Gamos
George Fordham
1871
Hannah
Charlie Maidment
1872
Reine
George Fordham
1873
Marie Stuart
Tom Cannon, Sr.
1874
Apology
John Osborne, Jr.
1875
Spinaway
Fred Archer
1876
(dh)
Camelia
Enguerrande
Tom Glover
Hudson
1877
Placida
Harry Jeffery
1878
Jannette
Fred Archer
1879
Wheel of Fortune
Fred Archer
1880
Jenny Howlet
Jim Snowden
1881
Thebais
George Fordham
1882
Geheimniss
Tom Cannon, Sr.
1883
Bonny Jean
John Watts
1884
Busybody
Tom Cannon, Sr.
1885
Lonely
Fred Archer
1886
Miss Jummy
John Watts
1887
Reve d’Or
Charles Wood
1888
Seabreeze
Jack Robinson
1889
L’Abbesse de Jouarre
Jimmy Woodburn
1890
Memoir
John Watts
1891
Mimi
Fred Rickaby
1892
La Fleche
George Barrett
1893
Mrs Butterwick
John Watts
1894
Amiable
Walter Bradford
1895
La Sagesse
Sam Loates
1896
Canterbury Pilgrim
Fred Rickaby
1897
Limasol
Walter Bradford
1898
Airs and Graces
Walter Bradford
1899
Musa
Otto Madden
1900
La Roche
Morny Cannon
1901
Cap and Bells II
Milton Henry
1902
Sceptre
Herbert Randall
1903
Our Lassie
Morny Cannon
1904
Pretty Polly
Willie Lane
1905
Cherry Lass
Herbert Jones
1906
Keystone II
Danny Maher
1907
Glass Doll
Herbert Randall
1908
Signorinetta
Billy Bullock
1909
Perola
Frank Wootton
1910
Rosedrop
Charlie Trigg
1911
Cherimoya
Fred Winter, Sr.
1912
Mirska
Joe Childs
1913
Jest
Fred Rickaby, Jr.
1914
Princess Dorrie
Bill Huxley
1915
Snow Marten
Walter Griggs
1916
Fifinella
Joe Childs
1917
Sunny Jane
Otto Madden
1918
My Dear
Steve Donoghue
1919
Bayuda
Joe Childs
1920
Charlebelle
Albert Whalley
1921
Love in Idleness
Joe Childs
1922
Pogrom
Ted Gardner
1923
Brownhylda
Vic Smyth
1924
Straitlace
Frank O’Neill
1925
Saucy Sue
Frank Bullock
1926
Short Story
Bobby Jones
1927
Beam
Tommy Weston
1928
Toboggan
Tommy Weston
1929
Pennycomequick
Henri Jelliss
1930
Rose of England
Gordon Richards
1931
Brulette
Charlie Elliott
1932
Udaipur
Michael Beary
1933
Chatelaine
Sam Wragg
1934
Light Brocade
Brownie Carslake
1935
Quashed
Henri Jelliss
1936
Lovely Rosa
Tommy Weston
1937
Exhibitionnist
Steve Donoghue
1938
Rockfel
Harry Wragg
1939
Galatea
Bobby Jones
1940
Godiva
Doug Marks
1941
Commotion
Harry Wragg
1942
Sun Chariot
Gordon Richards
1943
Why Hurry
Charlie Elliott
1944
Hycilla
Georges Bridgland
1945
Sun Stream
Harry Wragg
1946
Steady Aim
Harry Wragg
1947
Imprudence
Rae Johnstone
1948
Masaka
Billy Nevett
1949
Musidora
Edgar Britt
1950
Asmena
Rae Johnstone
1951
Neasham Belle
Stan Clayton
1952
Frieze
Edgar Britt
1953
Ambiguity
Joe Mercer
1954
Sun Cap
Rae Johnstone
1955
Meld
Harry Carr
1956
Sicarelle
Freddie Palmer
1957
Carrozza
Lester Piggott
1958
Bella Paola
Max Garcia
1959
Petite Etoile
Lester Piggott
1960
Never Too Late
Roger Poincelet
1961
Sweet Solera
Bill Rickaby
1962
Monade
Yves Saint-Martin
1963
Noblesse
Garnie Bougoure
1964
Homeward Bound
Greville Starkey
1965
Long Look
Jack Purtell
1966
Valoris
Lester Piggott
1967
Pia
Edward Hide
1968
La Lagune
Gérard Thiboeuf
1969
Sleeping Partner
John Gorton
1970
Lupe
Sandy Barclay
1971
Altesse Royale
Geoff Lewis
1972
Ginevra
Tony Murray
1973
Mysterious
Geoff Lewis
1974
Polygamy
Pat Eddery
1975
Juliette Marny
Lester Piggott
1976
Pawneese
Yves Saint-Martin
1977
Dunfermline
Willie Carson
1978
Fair Salinia
Greville Starkey
1979
Scintillate
Pat Eddery
1980
Bireme
Willie Carson
1981
Blue Wind
Lester Piggott
1982
Time Charter
Billy Newnes
1983
Sun Princess
Willie Carson
1984
Circus Plume
Lester Piggott
1985
Oh So Sharp
Steve Cauthen
1986
Midway Lady
Ray Cochrane
1987
Unite
Walter Swinburn
1988
Diminuendo
Steve Cauthen
1989
Snow Bride [c]
Steve Cauthen
1990
Salsabil
Willie Carson
1991
Jet Ski Lady
Christy Roche
1992
User Friendly
George Duffield
1993
Intrepidity
Michael Roberts
1994
Balanchine
Frankie Dettori
1995
Moonshell
Frankie Dettori
1996
Lady Carla
Pat Eddery
1997
Reams of Verse
Kieren Fallon
1998
Shahtoush
Michael Kinane
1999
Ramruma
Kieren Fallon
2000
Love Divine
Richard Quinn
2001
Imagine
Michael Kinane
2002
Kazzia
Frankie Dettori
2003
Casual Look
Martin Dwyer
2004
Ouija Board
Kieren Fallon
2005
Eswarah
Richard Hills
2006
Alexandrova
Kieren Fallon
2007
Light Shift
Ted Durcan
2008
Look Here
Seb Sanders
2009
Sariska
Jamie Spencer
2010
Snow Fairy
Ryan Moore
2011
Dancing Rain
Johnny Murtagh
2012
Was
Seamie Heffernan
2013
Talent
Richard Hughes
2014
Taghrooda
Paul Hanagan
2015
Qualify
Colm O’Donoghue
2016
Minding
Ryan Moore
2017
Enable
Frankie Dettori

2018

Forever Together

Donnacha O’Brien