In keeping with the Covid-19 restrictions, only trainers, staff and attendants were permitted to the course on a very wintery day on Sunday to witness the running of the 2020 Oaks and Derby heats.
There were a few upsets with the results and a couple of long priced runners saluted the judge, but it all makes for some very exciting finals next Sunday.
These youngsters could be the stars of the future and there were a few very eye catching performances.
The Oaks only attracted 15 nominations for two heats this year and the first heat was decimated even more by scratchings. It looked like a match race between boxes 1 and 8 and that is how it played out. Bring Your Banjo trained by Lisa Davis got the upper hand over Bareki in box 1. Both have qualified and next week in the final, the boxes have been reversed with these two, so it could be game on again.
Heat two of the Oaks saw a blow out with Superior Kiki winning and paying the massive tote odds of $33.00. Runner up was Aston Mirage who made the long trip from Dennington near Warrnambool, and should be better off for the run on the track in the final.
The Derby heats were keenly contested and a few shining stars were on show, but success went to some little known runners to the venue.
The first heat saw Spring Haze, trained by Gary Walker who ventured down from Benalla and put in a great run clocking 19.52. The runner-up was the long odds Trevor Whitford trained Snap Decision. With a $14.80 winner and a long-priced runner-up there was plenty on offer for those at home having a flutter. The quinella paid a healthy $51.70
Midnight Monarch left no-one in any doubt that he deserved his position in the final. Running the fastest heat the Chris Tilley trained youngster posted a scintillating 19.13 when defeating Soda Diamond who had a picket fence of wins prior to the race. The Ashlee Terry trained star had a record of 8 race starts for 7 wins and a minor placing, but was no match for the turbo engine that Midnight Monarch possesses.
They have drawn boxes 7 and 6 respectively for the final.
Probably the most anticipated heat of this year’s Derby. The 2019 Waterloo Cup winner Aston Bintang returning to the track since an injury enforced break back in February. Having previously recorded 19.10 at the track, and drawing his preferred side of the track, there were big expectations. Percy’s’ Magic for trainer Nathan Rooney (19.13) and Superior Breeze (19.19 with 4 wins at track and distance) were all in contention. But…. The locally owned up and coming youngster Smart As Jack who is in the very capable hands of trainer Adele Powell put on a great display of chasing and saluted in 19.28 to secure himself a spot in the $8,000 feature event next week.
Smart As Jack comes up with Box 2 next week with Percy’s Magic in Box 4.
The other two qualifiers next week are Curlin Merlin in Box 1 and Eagle Jet in box 5.
Good Luck to all finalists next week. If you are at home, make sure you tune into the Watchdog Live to see all the action. Remember Stay Home, Stay Safe.