ANY three-year-old that can win over 2500 metres so early in the season should automatically shape as a stayer of promise.
But it is remarkable how often winners of the VRC Oaks — at least in modern times — fail to figure as leaders of their generation once they become older horses, particularly over staying trips.
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Oaks Day preview
Our racing experts preview all the action at Flemington for Crown Oaks Day on Thursday.
So any punters who travel to Flemington fired with enthusiasm by Green Moon's triumph on Tuesday should be wary of seeking Cups clues for next season out of Thursday's group 1 Oaks, even though the race distance is further than the Caulfield Cup and only 700 metres short of the Melbourne Cup. Just because the Oaks is run over a staying trip, it doesn't mean you need a stayer to win it.
So often the race is run at a slower tempo and it becomes a sprint home, where the most brilliant filly, rather than the most stout-hearted, triumphs.
And as the race is confined to three-year-old fillies and carries a $1 million prize pot, the temptation to try to stretch a doubtful stayer's endurance to the limit is always there. As it is often said, "they are only three-year-olds once and will never get the chance to run for such money again".
A typical Oaks field includes a handful of well-performed fillies who have displayed good ability at shorter distances against the best of their contemporaries. Dear Demi, from the Sydney stable of Clarry Connors, fits this template.
It usually contains at least one contender who has improved remarkably when given the chance to run over a trip — as has Anthony Freedman's Zydeco, whose best win by far came in the group 3 Wakeful Stakes over 2000 metres on Saturday.
While many Oaks winners in the past decade have gone on to hugely successful autumn campaigns — including Faint Perfume (2009 winner), Miss Finland (2006), Serenade Rose (2005) and Special Harmony (2003) — just as many have not. And very few have gone on to take high order the following year, despite expectations. Some have never won another race, with a handful struggling to even manage a place.
Last year's winner Mosheen was exceptional. She destroyed her opposition, winning by nine lengths, and proved herself a superb autumn three-year-old with three group 1 triumphs, including wins in the Australian and Randwick Guineas over 1600 metres against the colts.
But she was plagued with injuries this spring and after one win from four starts was retired to stud.
The most recent Oaks winner to have a serious four-year-old career was Miss Finland, who won a Memsie Stakes, ran second in the Underwood and Caulfield Stakes and fourth in the Cox Plate.
Racing Victoria general manager Greg Carpenter says the later efforts of Oaks winners shows how tough it is to bridge the age and sex gap for even outstanding females.
"When they turn four they do find it harder against open competition. Many do very well in the autumn of their three-year-old year and can beat the colts, as Mosheen did in the Guineas, but find it more difficult as they get older," he said. "It doesn't seem as though the race distance flattens them, as many do well over shorter distances in the autumn or are competitive at weight-for-age over shorter trips in the spring of their four-year-old year."