Canberra trainer Matthew Dale. Photo: Andrew Sheargold
As a happily married father of one, Matthew Dale will have eyes for only one filly at ladies' day at Flemington today.
The Canberra trainer has the undefeated Gladius running in the first race of Oaks Day at the famed Melbourne race track - the Visit Victoria Plate (1700 metres).
It will be the first time Dale has been part of the Flemington spring carnival and just the third time he has raced at the track.
He first went to Flemington for Jackpot Queen's victory in the Trevor Clarke Handicap (1000m) in May last year.
Then he took Unanimously to Flemington for the listed AR Creswick Stakes (1200m), where he ran eighth to Liveandletdie.
With Gladius running in the opening race of the day, Dale will be able to take in the atmosphere of what many believe is the best day of the spring carnival - more than the much-hyped Melbourne Cup day.
Once his official duties are done, he will enjoy the day with Gladius's connections and watch the $1 million group 1 Oaks (2500m) - a staying test for three-year-old fillies.
Dale is looking forward to experiencing the vibe of the day for the first time.
''It's obviously the pinnacle of Australian racing this week at Flemington - it's good just to be a part of it,'' he said.
''And we're in the first race so we get things over nice and early and enjoy the day … I haven't had any runners over the Melbourne Cup week but I've always loved sitting at home watching Oaks Day on TV and you'd always love a runner there, a realistic chance, and we've got that.''
Dale was expecting a promising showing from Gladius.
The daughter of Holy Roman Emperor has won both her starts so far - saluting in a maiden plate (1300m) at Orange first up, before winning a class 1 handicap (1400m) at Kembla Grange two weeks ago.
Dale hopes she can continue her progression at Australia's premier horse-racing carnival.
Gladius was rated a $4.80 chance with ACTTAB yesterday, with Moreau the $4 favourite.
''She's a lightly-raced, progressive filly, two from two, and given the indication that the step up in distance and big, open Flemington track will suit, so this looks like a beautiful race for her,'' Dale said. ''We've done a bit of form and it looks like an open race, she's equal favourite or second favourite on a couple of the betting markets, so they've obviously got her right in the mix.''
Dale also has Shoot Thru Blu running at Hawkesbury on Thursday in the Country Cup (1200m).
He thought the race suited the five-year-old gelding, which ran ninth at Canterbury when first-up from a spell.
Fellow Canberra trainers Nick Olive and Keith Dryden also have runners at Flemington.
Dryden's Vilakazi Street was a $26 outsider in the Greys Plate (1400m).
Zaratone, trained by Olive, was also a long shot in the listed Fashions on the Field Stakes (1000m) at $20.