CRANBOURNE trainer Mick Kent attempts to buck tradition by claiming the $1 million group 1 VRC Oaks on Thursday with a filly having just her third start. But while inexperienced, Summerbliss has a vital factor in her favour.
"She's a natural stayer and you probably can't say that about too many other fillies in the race," Kent said. "She's still a backward sort of filly but shows that ability to get over ground, so we gave her a preparation aimed at this race and she's managed to get there."
It is this natural ability that gives Kent hope that despite her light racing record, she might be able to overcome the two dominant fillies in the race, Dear Demi and Zydeco, at their first test at 2500 metres.
Mick Kent. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
"She is bred to run all day, being out of a Sadler's Wells mare but you look at the pedigrees of the two favourites and one is by Zabeel [Zydeco] and the other is out of a Zabeel mare [Dear Demi], so I don't know if we've got that much on them on that score."
Summerbliss was on Wednesday night ranked as the Oaks' third favourite at $8 behind Zydeco ($2.30) and Dear Demi ($4.80) with bookmaker Betstar.
Just a month ago, Summerbliss — bred by Ric Jamieson, whose Gilgai Farm bred the unbeaten superstar Black Caviar — made her debut over 1600 metres in a maiden at Ballarat, in which she stormed home late to win. She then stepped up to the listed Ethereal Stakes over 2000 metres at Caulfield, finishing second to Alzora.
Kent said he favoured keeping Summerbliss fresh for the Oaks. "I had her in the Wakeful [Stakes last Saturday] but just thought that the extra run might be one too many, so we've kept her fresh and happy and she's been going along well in her work so it's a bit of a punt but she's shown me that she could be up to it," he said.
Rival trainer Anthony Freedman has had plenty of experience to call on when preparing race favourite Zydeco for the classic, as his brother Lee trained four VRC Oaks winners, as well as numerous placegetters.
Freedman said he had given the filly the same campaign as other Oaks winners of the past.
Freedman reported the filly ate up well after her impressive Wakeful Stakes win last Saturday and has since been bright. "She worked well at home on Tuesday morning so we are sure she has come through the run in great order," he said.
Brother Lee Freedman claimed four VRC Oaks over an 11-year period, with Northwood Plume (1994), Kensington Palace (1997), Special Harmony (2003) and Serenade Rose (2005) scoring in the distance classic for fillies.