The Oaks Stakes: The History – The Winners—Their Breeding 1779-2015
Reviewed by Mike Deasy of the London Racing Club
We talk to Michael Church about his new history of the Oaks
Whilst there’s a huge library of books chronicling the history of the turf, there’s been one standout omission – a history of the 237 year-old Oaks. That, however, is about to change with the imminent publication of racing historian Michael Church’s The Oaks Stakes: The History – The Winners—Their Breeding 1779-2015.
Its 256 pages include a comprehensive history of the race, its foundation, the results, all the winners and their breeding.
“Surprising as it is, no one had written a detailed history of the Oaks” says Michael. “I therefore raised the subject with Julian Brown at Raceform, who after consultation, said, ‘We would consider the history of the Oaks as a limited edition, say, about half the size of your Derby tome.’
“The later winners have a full page, with times, distances, SPs and the innovation of a race commentary. In addition to the illustrations, there are pen pictures of the famous connections – owners, trainers and jockeys, together with essays on the more famous winners. To round off, as with my previous books, there are analyses tables, a range of records and full indices.
“By using, among others, past volumes of the Racing Calendar, the General Stud-Book and my Dams of Classic Winners and Classic Pedigrees, I was able to condense as much consistent information that could be produced in both half pages for the earlier years and full pages from 1916.”
Michael estimates that undertaking the research and writing the book amounted to just over one day for every year of the Oaks’ history.
“It took about 300 days, working every day except Oaks Day, Derby Day and Christmas Day
“The surprise to me was the pleasure I gained from researching and compiling the
race commentaries – a new feature in my turf histories.”
That investment in time and effort has already earned the praise of the doyen of bloodstock writers Tony Morris, saying:
“This is a classic account of Epsom’s other classic. For it is the Oaks, more than any other race, which identifies the special filly who may earn the right to challenge the colts and sometimes put them in their place.”
In personal terms, there are two standout Oaks which Michael has witnessed. “I would find it very difficult to split Petite Etoile (1959), cruising to victory, with Lester Piggott aboard and Noblesse (1963), showing devastating class to win by 10 lengths.”
Published by Raceform, The Oaks Stakes: The History – The Winners—Their Breeding 1779-2015, is a limited edition of 650 copies, numbered and signed by the author.
Priced at £65 + £5 p&p, the book, size A5, is presented in a strong luxury binding, gold-blocked cover, with head and tail bands, ribbon marker and, all edges gilt.
All together a fine collectors book
Available now, online from www.racingpost.com/shop
or by calling : 01933 304 858.
To see more of Michael’s books visit Books for Sale