Friday is something of a D-day for three of Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh’s Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) contenders.
Marsh has four fillies still in Oaks contention, with progressive Vadamos filly Superette headed to the Group 2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes (2100m) at Hastings on March 2.
The other three will travel to New Plymouth to race on Friday, with Miss Ella and Eva Chiara contesting the Listed Grangewilliam Stud “Derryn” Oaks Prelude (1800m) and Divine Sava also racing over 1800m but in maiden company.
“It’s a really important day for all three of them. They all need to show they are worthy of pressing on towards the Oaks,” Marsh said.
“From what we’ve seen, I think all three can run well again and then take the next step towards the Oaks as well.”
The Oaks Prelude was meant to have been run at New Plymouth on February 5 but was rescheduled to Friday after that meeting was called off through unsuitable track conditions.
Eva Chiara finished second over 1300m in the only race run before the meeting was abandoned and the way events unfolded had played to her advantage, Marsh said.
“Eva Chiara really hit the line nicely last time over 1300m and this is the perfect step up in distance for her. If this race hadn’t been rescheduled for here, we’d probably have been forced to step her up to 2000m which wouldn’t have been ideal.
“She’s done really well since that last run and though you don’t know first time up over ground, we’re expecting her to really enjoy the extra distance.
“The extra couple of weeks between races won’t hurt Miss Ella either. She’s going extra well and her form is rock solid. Just in the Karaka Million, they ran it really strongly up front and none of those leaders were there at the finish.
“On the face of it, she might have looked a bit disappointing but when you look at the sectionals and where the other on-pace horses finished, her run was a lot better than it looked.”
Should both fillies race with credit, Marsh will continue their build-up to the Oaks at Trentham on March 19 either in the Lowland or, perhaps more likely, in the Group 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m) at Ellerslie on March 5.
“Divine Sava could go that way as well but we really need to see her produce a top run on Friday,” Marsh said.
“She’s been going nice races without winning but this really is the time for her to step up. She’s been working nicely and she gets her chance at New Plymouth.”
Marsh will also saddle Tightlign, Epiphany, Bloom and Firestock at New Plymouth, ahead of weekend racing that will see Seresin, Iconic Star, Mega Bourbon, Raposa Rapida, Gee Cee, Aspiring, Letz’av Bubbles and Oso Savvy in action at Ellerslie on Saturday and Shakeout and Tereine race at Hastings on Sunday.
“It’s a busy weekend for us but we’ve plenty of nice chances. I’m looking forward to seeing Gee Cee back. He’s a really nice horse and he’s going well,” Marsh said.
“And I’m looking forward to seeing the three in the open sprint (Iconic Star, Mega Bourbon and Raposa Rapida). If they run well, they’ll head towards the (Haunui Farm) King’s Plate (1200m, Group Three) at Ellerslie on Derby day.”