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Matthew Dale's Fell Swoop falls agonisingly short in Oakleigh Plate

"Too close" – Canberra trainer Matthew Dale would rather his emerging sprint star, Fell Swoop, had lost by a length instead of the short-half-head margin he was away from winning his first group 1 race.

And fellow Canberran Nick Olive will head towards a group 1 race himself after his filly, Single Gaze, also finished second on what was nearly a massive day for ACT racing.

By rights, Fell Swoop probably should have won the Oakleigh Plate (1100 metres) at Caulfield on Saturday, but the son of Not A Single Doubt got held up in the straight as jockey Glyn Schofield struggled to get out of traffic and unleash the four-year-old gelding's withering sprint.

That time proved costly and he fell narrowly short of running down the Peter Moody-trained Flamberge in a gutsy display that made Dale proud.

It was Fell Swoop's first crack at group 1 level as he resumed from a spell.

While the margin was heartbreaking, it franked Dale's opinion of how good Fell Swoop is and re-affirmed his decision to target the $700,000 Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill in three weeks.


After that, a date with the big guns of Australian sprinting in the $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 2 could be on the cards.

Fell Swoop now has a career record of eight wins and two seconds from his 11 starts, but it could so easily have been nine.

"That's racing and I'm very proud that he could run as well as he did in his maiden group 1 attempt," Dale said.

"It just shows we're on the right path and we weren't silly in thinking we could aim at group 1s in his first two cracks this preparation.

"It was probably too close to be honest. If he had've been beaten a length, you're wrapped in the performance, but knowing full well you were soundly beaten.

"Whereas he was held up and arguably should've won the race."

Single Gaze finished second to Ghisoni in the group 2 Surround Stakes (1400m) at Randwick by about the margin Dale would have preferred – 1¼ lengths.

It too was a gutsy effort from the Olive-trained filly, who rounded the home turn on the shoulder of the eventual winner.

She looked to be gone in the straight as Ghisoni pulled away, but she fought on to finish second in her first race since finishing second in the Magic Millions Three-year-old Guineas (1400m) at the Gold Coast in January.

Olive was impressed with her run and will push on towards the group 3 Keith F Nolan Classic (1600m) at Kembla Grange on March 11, with the group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) the next step.

He said the Vinery would be her grand final, although pushing on towards the $1 million Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick on April 9 was an option.

Olive was also preparing Fox Tales for next Sunday's group 3 Black Opal Stakes (1200m) at Canberra's Thoroughbred Park – the race in which Single Gaze finished second last year.

He's hoping she might now be able to break her bridesmaid status and break through for her second win.

"It'd be lovely to win again with her, that's for sure, but she'll head off to Kembla Grange Friday week for the Keith Nolan Classic, group 3 race over 1600m, and hopefully that's her race," Olive said.

Meanwhile, Canberra continued its dominance of the Highway series, with the Luke Pepper-trained Appoint Percy saluting in the Highway Plate (1600m) at Randwick.