NZ Oaks Offerings - Run The Gamut
From Lammas to Johnson (top, L-R), and Imelda Mary to Queen of Diamonds (bottom L-R) the scope of this year's NZ Oaks is exciting
New Zealand Oaks offerings
Cameron Lammas is concentrating on quality over quantity at Trentham this weekend.
The northern rider has four mounts, all in black type races.
His book is headed by Imelda Mary, a leading contender for the $400,000 Group I Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand Oaks and he will also partner Livin’ On A Prayer (Cuddle Stakes), Cavallo Veloce (Wellington Guineas) and Princess Kereru (Lightning Stakes).
Lammas, 34, is having a good season. He is in the top 10 on the premiership, with 47 wins, including five black type races. The only jockeys who have won more feature races this season are Matt Cameron, Opie Bosson and Leith Innes.
Lammas has won two Group II races on Imelda Mary, raising hopes that Lammas can record an overdue Group I victory on Saturday. He has a career tally of 11 Group II wins but his sole Group I victory came 14 years ago, on Calveen in the 2005 Easter Handicap at Ellerslie.
Imelda Mary has received plenty of publicity this term, in part because her trainer, Wayne Hillis paid just $3500 for the filly as a yearling, making her one of the cheapest horses sold at the 2017 national yearling sales series.
Imelda Mary has already earned more than $175,000 in stakes and will be racing for a first prize of $231,250 this weekend.
Hillis, a proven Group I trainer, has had several capable three-year-old fillies and has had Oaks runners in three different countries but has yet to record an Oaks win.
Final Destination was successful in the One Thousand Guineas and Bayer Classic but was sold to the United States before she could contest the New Zealand Oaks, while Wellington Guineas winner Kainui Belle was the beaten favourite in the 2004 New Zealand Oaks.
Boulevardofdreams, another good filly trained by Hillis, was a Group II winner at three and ran third in the AJC Oaks in Sydney but bypassed the New Zealand Oaks, as did Royal Stakes winner Puttanesca.
But while they missed the NZ Oaks, both Boulevardofdreams and Puttanesca contested the American Oaks, at Hollywood Park in California, for Hillis but were unplaced.
Savabeel well represented
Champion sire Savabeel will have four runners in the New Zealand Oaks.
Savabeel is the sire of the Oaks favourite Queen Of Diamonds and will also be represented by Clementina, Elate and Savy Young Blonk.
Savabeel has had 13 individual stakeswinners in New Zealand this term and has already sired the New Zealand Oaks winners Savvy Coup (2018) and Savaria (2015).
Savvy Coup tackles the Group I Coolmore Stakes in Sydney this weekend, with Opie Bosson the rider, and Bosson will also partner the Savabeel filly Probabeel in the Group II Magic Night Stakes at Rosehill.
Three other sires – Reliable Man, Niagara and Jakkalberry – will have two runners in the Oaks and three of the Oaks contenders – Kinshasa, Schist and Star Karen – are from Zabeel mares. Schist (Reliable Man-Torlundy) is also a granddaughter of the NZ Oaks winner Tartan Tights.
So You Think filly Shezathinka, Lope De Vega filly Rubira and Camelot filly Star Karen are the three Australian-bred runners in the Oaks. Australian-bred horses have had an impact on the New Zealand classic races this term, providing the quinella in both the One Thousand Guineas and New Zealand Derby.
Johnson seeking another Oaks victory
Veteran jockey Chris Johnson will complete a set of six of the best if he can win the NZ Oaks on Shezathinka.
Johnson won the Oaks for a record fifth time when successful on Savvy Coup last year. That followed wins on Domino (1990), Tartan Tights (1995), Sawatdee (1997) and Tycoon Lil (1998).
Johnson has been the most successful Oaks rider since the race was transferred from Riccarton to Trentham in the 1973-74 season. Greg Childs and Opie Bosson have been the next best, with four wins apiece.
Shezathinka is still a maiden but has been placed in her last five attempts and justified an Oaks tilt when the runner-up to Queen Of Diamonds in the Group II Lowland Stakes at Hastings at her last start.
Shezathinka and fellow Oaks contender Savy Yong Blonk are trained by Jamie Richards, who enhanced an already memorable season with his Group I double at Ellerslie last weekend.
Johnson, 54, has often excelled at Trentham. More than half of his Group I victories have come at Trentham, where his other big wins include the Wellington Cup, Telegraph (twice), Captain Cook Stakes (twice) and Thorndon Mile.
He has also had four wins in the listed Lightning Handicap, another of Saturday’s features, though Vinnie’s Volley, his Lightning mount this weekend, is at long odds.
Variety of backgrounds
Most of the New Zealand Oaks contenders went through a sale ring as a yearling, at prices ranging from $3,500 for Imelda Mary to $640,000 for Queen Of Diamonds
Queen Of Diamonds (Savabeel-Love Diamonds) is from the Eight Carat family and has already enhanced her value with her two Group wins. A Group I victory would make her a prized asset in any broodmare band.
Nine of Love Diamonds’ foals have gone through the Karaka sale ring and grossed more than $2.6 million. Queen of Diamonds, who is raced by the China Horse Club, has been the most expensive but has also been the best.
Pins filly Pinmedown, who is second favourite for the Oaks, cost a relatively modest $28,000 and Sentimental Miss, Rubira and Star Karen were all sold for less than $50,000.