Classic test for Baker-Forsman fillies
Queen of Diamonds winning the Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2100m). Photo: Peter Rubery (Race Images Palmerston North)
How his trio of talented fillies handle the step up to 2400m on a rain-affected Trentham track is Cambridge trainer Andrew Forsman's only concern heading into Saturday's Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m).
Forsman and training partner Murray Baker will produce Queen Of Diamonds, Clementina and Rubira in the three-year-old fillies feature on a track rated a dead six on Thursday morning.
"We've got three good fillies that give us a chance," Forsman said.
"There's no superstar in the race this year. Queen Of Diamonds looks pretty good but she's got to run out 2400m on a potentially rain-affected track. Against ours, Pinmedown and Imelda Mary look very nice fillies and it's hard to fault what they've done."
China Horse Club-owned Savabeel filly Queen Of Diamonds assumed favouritism for the Oaks after her brilliant win in the Gr.2 Lowland Stakes (2000m) at Hastings last month under jockey Matthew Cameron, who retains the ride on Saturday.
"She was very good at Hastings. She was well ridden the way the track was playing. You had to be on the speed that day and she got the right run but she's also got the turn of foot to do that," Forsman said.
"Now she's got to take that ability to the 2400m on an off track. We know she can sprint well but she's just got to relax now so she can conserve her energy and produce that when it matters."
TAB bookmakers installed Queen Of Diamonds as a $4.20 final field market favourite ahead of last-start Gr.3 Sunline Vase (2100m) winner Pinmedown at $4.80, ahead of third favourite Imelda Mary at $6.50. Rubira was at $11 and Clementina at $13 after their runs for eighth and second respectively in the Sunline Vase.
"We probably would have ridden Clementina quieter at Ellerslie but from that good draw we opted to put her in the race and that negated her turn of foot a little bit. Ridden more patiently, she'll see the 2400m right out," Forsman said.
"Rubira was getting wound up when the gaps closed and while she wouldn't have won, she probably would have finished right up with the placed horses. She's been crying out for a bit of give in the ground and she gets that this weekend.
"Whether she's mature and strong enough yet to run out the 2400m on a testing track is a query but she deserves her chance. All three of ours are performing well and they all look as good as they did starting their preparations."
With all three holding a nomination for the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick on April 13, that gives weight to the possibility of a trip to Sydney should they run well on Saturday.
Other New Zealand Oaks runners nominated for the Australian Oaks include Pinmedown, Imelda Mary, Savy Yong Blonk, Sentimental Miss, Shezathinka, Elate and Nerve Not Verve.