IT has not been a memorable start to the classic season for British hopes, with nary a winner in the first four big events in this country and Ireland.

Natagora strolled away with the 1000 Guineas for France, while Irish horses, Henrythenavigator, winner of the British and Irish 2000 Guineas, and Halfway To Heaven, winner of the Irish 10000 Guineas, mopped up the rest.

The fifth such race, the Oaks at Epsom today, does not offer much respite for the home division as the first three places in the betting market are occupied by Emerald Isle contenders, Lush Lashes, Chinese White and Katiyra.

The surprising aspect of that trio is none is trained by Aidan O'Brien, who makes up for perceived lack of quality with quantity, saddling five candidates. Even so, two of his quintet have done enough, on paper, to suggest they could rise to the occasion.

Adored, chosen by stable-jockey Johnny Murtagh, has won her last two races, the latest a creditable success in a Group 3 over 10 furlongs at Naas. She needs to do better but may well do and Sail, who won the Cheshire Oaks, has to be respected, especially with Ryan Moore booked to ride.

The home defence is led by Clowance, winner of her two races this season, who is the subject of good reports from her stable, that of Roger Charlton. Michita would have an outside chance but perhaps the most likely prospect among the home runners is Cape Amber, well beaten by Lush Lasses at York but expected to come on a lot for that. She appeals as the best each-way shot.

Choosing between the principals is not easy, although many would argue that Jim Bolger's Lush Lashes looked the part at York. She has set a high standard and is more experienced than the other two. Chinese White, trained by Dermot Weld, was impressive in her only race this term when winning over nine furlongs at Gowran Park. She is bred for this trip and is fancied by her connections.

That leaves Katiyra (4.05) who will do for me. Trained by the shrewd John Oxx, this filly did well to finish a close second to Carribean Sunset in a Group 3 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in her only outing this term. That form was boosted by the winner's good third in the Irish 1000 Guineas and, as Katiyra is bred for middle distance success, she could get home ahead of Chinese White and Cape Amber.

The Oaks is sponsored by Juddmonte and so, too, is the other Group 1, the Coronation Cup, in which the mare, Turbo Linn, takes on the toughest of tasks. She has surprised us all by her journey from bumpers to Group class but she may find this a peak too far.

Getaway will be at short odds and his victory at Newmarket in the Jockey Club Stakes entitles him to that status. The runner-up, Sixties Icon, a former St Leger winner, went on to win by five lengths at Goodwood, in a Listed race, and the form looks solid.

Macarthur, winner of the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes at Chester over 13 furlongs, could well be a formidable opponent, while Papal Bull and Anna Pavlova, who will be happy if the ground gets softer, are talented. Biggest threat to the favourite could be Youmzain, second in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last season. However, Getaway (3.25), may have improved again and can win again Selections 1.40 Don't Panic 2.45 Emirates Skyline 3.25 Getaway 4.05 Katiyra