ONLY a horror barrier draw will deny brilliant Kiwi filly Stylish Memphis hot favouritism for next Saturday night’s Group 1 Victoria Oaks.
Not only did she seem to comfortably win the first of the two Oaks at Ballarat last night, but she went much quicker time than the top local filly, Maajida, ran winning the second heat.
Stylish Memphis was balanced-up early by caretaker trainer and driver Mark Purdon, worked forward and eventually poured pressure on another Kiwi, Cran Dalgety’s Dr Susan, to take the lead after 1000m of the long 2710m trip.
“I had one go at Anthony (Butt) for the lead and he really didn’t want to give it up, but she was pulling harder and harder and I was really a passenger,” Purdon said. “She stuck to her task well considering.”
The lead time of 79.9sec was 1.8sec faster than Maajida did working to the front in her heat.
Purdon dictated the terms once in front, dawdling through a 62.2sec middle half, before dashing home in 55.4 and 26.9sec and beating Dr Susan by 2.2m with NSW raider Jenden Stride another 5.9m in third spot after doing the work outside the leader.
Purdon knew his only danger was on his back and Dr Susan didn’t have use of a sprint lane at Ballarat, so he only did what he had to on Stylish Memphis.
Its Beaujolais (fourth), Alice Kay (fifth) and Amelia Rose (sixth) were the other automatic qualifiers for the final.
Stylish Memphis mile-rated a solid 1min57.3sec, which actually compared quite well against Smolda’s 1min54.8sec 2710m Ballarat track record.
Maajida, Victoria’s 2YO filly of the year with seven wins from eight starts last term, went into her Oaks heat first-up from a long spell and got the job done, albeit after being pushed right out by Greg Sugars.
Sugars also slowed the tempo in front with a 62.7sec middle half, then quickened for a 28.8sec third quarter and home in 27.7sec for a 1min59.3sec mile rate.
There’s no doubt Maajida will strip a lot fitter for the run, but she’d need to and also land a good in the final to seriously test Stylish Memphis on what we saw in the heats.
Outsider Soho Gloria Jane trailed Maajida and finished 2.4m away in second spot, while local outsider Good Faith ran on well for third. The other qualifiers were: Its Longtall Sally (fourth), Its Ebonynivory (fifth) and Rockingwithsierra (sixth).
The Aussie TAB has Stylish Memphis $2 pre-draw favourite from Maajida ($2.80) and Dr Susan ($4.20).
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THE two big guns of the Victoria Derby didn’t qualify for the final.
The All Stars’ Smooth Deal and Clayton Tonkin’s Be Happy Mach clashed in the strongest of last night’s heats and were expected to fight it out.
Instead, another former Kiwi, Line Up, led throughout for new trainer-driver Anthony Butt while Be Happy Mach was fifth (beaten 23.8m) and Smooth Deal sixth (beaten 25.9m).
Line Up looked a rung below the best in NZ, but sparkled last night after Butt fought-off an early challenge from Smooth Deal to keep the front and always looked in control.
He went the fastest of the three Derby heats and Line Up’s 1min56.2sec mile rate was just 0.1sec slower than AG’s White Socks went winning the Ballarat Cup over the same 2710m trip.
Smooth Deal took cover from Bad To The Bone (who held-on, ran fourth and made the final) in the middle stages, but was battling on the final bend.
Be Happy Mach sat back, came with a three-wide run from the bell, but paced roughly at times and ran on only fairly at his first run back from a long spell.
Be Happy Mach is first emergency for the final, so needs a scratching to gain a start.
Kiwi trainer Paul Court’s Derby hopeful Mach Da Vinci had no luck when clear too late for a fast-finishing second to Emma Stewart’s Pacifico Dream in the first heat.
Pacifico Dream led and driver Kate Gath dictated terms with a 62.6sec middle half and only a 29.3sec third quarter.
“There was no pace on, he got it easy in front, but he dashed home well and I didn’t pull the plugs. It was a good run first-up and going ahead to the final,” Gath said.
The race turned into just a 400m dash home in 26.6sec and Mach Da Vinci was still making ground when he finally saw daylight.
Tough local Youaremysunshine sat parked and fought on well for third, while the regally-bred Soho Hamilton just did enough to grab a final berth by finishing fourth.
Exciting Queenslander Governor Jujon blasted to the front and made a one-act affair of the second Derby heat, cruising home unextended with the plugs still in to win by 9.3m over Anthony Butt’s former Kiwi, Perfect Stride in a 1min58.2sec mile rate.
Outsider Hesty, 19.1m away in third spot and Mirragon, beaten 21.7m in fourth place, both made the final.
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DEFENDING Great Southern Star champion Dance Craze has found winning form again in the build-up to her title defence.
Anton Golino’s star mare took advantage of a rare mistake by hot favourite Tornado Valley in the score-up to settle in front of him.
Dance Craze moved around to sit parked, found the lead at the 600m when leader Kheiron broke and had Tornado Valley outside her.
Despite trotting roughly in the last 100m, Dance Craze just held-off a gallant Tornado Valley in a 1min58sec mile rate for 2200m, capped by closing splits of 56.4 and 27.6sec.
Tornado Valley galloped in he score, had to chase hard for 200m to catch the field and still missed the start by 10m.
Former star juvenile Wobelee stalked the pair at his first try in the big league and closed late for third.
Life will certainly get much harder for those top Aussie trotters against Oscar Bonavena and the other Kiwi raiders in Dullard Cup and Great Southern Star over the next couple of weeks at Melton.