KERRIN McEVOY is cautiously optimistic $1 million VRC Oaks favourite Zydeco can end her first campaign with group 1 success at Flemington on Thursday.
The Darley-owned but Anthony Freedman-trained Zabeel filly could give the breeding giant a second group 1 of the Flemington carnival after Appearance won the Myer Classic and become the 28th Wakeful Stakes winner to back up and take out the Oaks.
Calmer weather expected for Oaks Day
Flemington might not be terribly sunny for Oaks Day on Thursday, but forecasters say any possible showers are likely to miss the racecourse.
''My filly has to bring her A-game if she is going to win,'' McEvoy said. ''Anthony has brought her along slowly and even though it is her first preparation, she rides and races like she will get the trip. She's not green and doesn't do a lot wrong. I just need to get her into a nice rhythm like I did on Saturday.''
A lack of seasoning is the only thing that could count against the filly, which could become the first daughter of Zabeel to win an Oaks at Flemington and deliver Sheikh Mohammed a first, too.
Zydeco has the right form heading to the Oaks: she ran third in the Thousand Guineas before a commanding win in the Wakeful to become the $2.40 favourite for 2500-metre classic.
McEvoy remains aware of second favourite Dear Demi, which had no luck in the straight when fourth in the Wakeful.
''[Zydeco] is obviously coming off a good win in the Wakeful but I still have to ride her to get her to switch off,'' McEvoy said.
''Dear Demi drops back in weight from the Wakeful, which will help her, and she has obviously run in some top-class races and always performed well in them.''
Dear Demi's trainer Clarry Conners will be chasing a third VRC Oaks following successes with Research and Arborea.
The John Singleton-owned filly already has two runners-up finishes in group 1s - in the Champagne Stakes as a two-year-old and in the Thousand Guineas behind Commanding Jewel when she also struck trouble in the straight. Jim Cassidy will take the ride again on Dear Demi and Conners believes she is due a bit of luck in running.
''I was disappointed with the Wakeful because I've been waiting a long time to get her to Flemington,'' Conners said. ''The weight turnaround of two-and-a-half kilos will help and the extra distance will suit.''