Australasian Oaks Ante-Post Preview
29 April 2019
Some of the finest three-year-old staying fillies in the business will battle it out for supremacy when Morphettville hosts the Group 1 Australasian Oaks on May 4. The prize pool stands at a cool $500,000 and the prestige that comes with winning this feature race is high, so it always attracts a strong field. There are 40 fillies in line for the 2000m contest, and nominations close the week prior. The final field of acceptances and barrier draw will be released on the Tuesday before the race begins, but it is sure to be a strong card.
Princess Jenni is the early favourite for this 2000m classic, which is also known as the Schweppes Oaks, after she landed a narrow victory at Caulfield last weekend. She finished strongly to win the Group 3 Alexandra Stakes over 1600m at Moonee Valley on March 22 in her second start of the autumn campaign. She then travelled to Sydney, where she was due to compete in the Adrian Knox Stakes at Randwick on April 6, where she was handed top weight, but drew a nice barrier. However, Racing NSW suspected the filly had received illegal raceday treatment after finding a raised lump on the side of her neck and she was a late scratch.
Experienced trainer David Brideoake protested his innocence, and he expressed his frustration at the decision, but he now feels it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. “It cost me a run on the day and a run in the Australian Oaks, but at the end of the day sometimes it works the right way and she’ll now go to Adelaide and she’ll be a strong chance over there,” said Brideoake. Princess Jenni was certainly impressive at Caulfield at the weekend, picking up a second consecutive victory after surging to the line late on and edging Sure Knee and Collectable.
Brideoake insists she could have beaten Verry Elleegant in last week’s $1 million Australian Oaks. Now he is hoping she can step up and land her first Group 1 victory at Morphettville on May 4. Verry Elleegant will not contest the Schweppes Oaks, and the early odds make Aristia the second favourite, while Mirette is also very much in the mix among bookmakers offering odds on the Australasian Oaks. Yet Brideoake and connections of Princess Jenni can take heart from the success that favourites have enjoyed in this race of late.
In the last decade, favourites have saluted five times, the latest being Abbey Marie in 2016. May’s Dream, Lights Of Heaven, Gallica and Zarita have also justified their status as favourites by clinching victory, and Princess Jenni would be in good company if she were to land this race. Delicacy is another notable winner and she went on to be named Australian champion filly after saluting here.
Yet Princess Jenni faces stern competition. Aristia has lost out to Very Elleegant in her last three races, but she displayed great promise in the spring. She closed her 2018 campaign with back-to-back victories in the Group 2 Mumm Wakeful Stakes and the Group 1 Kennedy Oaks, both at Flemington, marking her out as a future superstar. She was third in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill last month, but then disappointed in the Australian Oaks. However, she has the pace and stamina to make things interesting in the Schweppes Oaks, particularly with Verry Elleegant missing.
Mirette won the Group 3 Schweppervescence Stakes at Morphettville earlier this month and that has proven a strong form line in recent years, yielding four of the last seven Schweppes Oaks winners. She has four wins from 11 starts, with prize money of $193,655.00, and she looks very dangerous in this race. Cindy Alderson has also been eagerly anticipating this race as it has long been a target for her filly Sizzleme. She finished third in the Group 3 Ethereal Stakes behind Verry Elleegant and Aristia last spring and she enjoyed the 2000m distance. “I’m very confident she will acquit herself well,” said Alderson.
The likes of Amangiri, Sure Knee, House of Cartier, Zalatte, Arctic Shock and Collectable could also be in the running, and it promises to be a thrilling race. Keep an eye out for the barrier draw, as barriers 1 and 5 have been the most successful over the past 35 years, each yielding six winners. Barriers 12 and 13 have each yielded just one winner in that time, which is worth bearing in mind before placing your bets.