By Ray Hickson
Trainer Mark Newnham won’t be afraid to attempt an all the way win with bold filly Harmony Rose in Saturday’s Group 1 $1m Star Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick as he’s adamant the grey will settle much better than she did a couple of weeks ago.
That race was the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes over 2000m where she set a brutal tempo, on a track favouring on pacers, only to be gunned down in the last 50m by Hungry Heart.
While he’s not signalling intent for Josh Parr to take Harmony Rose to the lead he expects her to land in the first few and is confident she won’t leave herself a sitting shot this time around.
“Whether that’s leading, outside lead, one out one back, will depend on the pace of the race,’’ Newnham said.
“I think partly the other day, with the races going back a week, she was a month between runs and I did give her a trial in between but it probably contributed to her overdoing it a bit.
“She settled really well in her work since that run, Josh galloped her on Monday over 1400m on the course proper at Warwick Farm and she was strong through the line and pulled up well.
“I wouldn’t expect her to race quite as keenly as she did. She will put herself in the race early and be hard to beat.”
There’s no doubt Newnham knows how to prepare an Oaks winner but his record says he’s still chasing a first after two seconds, a third and a fourth from his previous attempts in Sydney and Melbourne.
He has two chances in 2021 with Adrian Knox runner-up Bargain joining Harmony Rose.
Greysful Glamour (2018 VRC Oaks) and Scarlet Dream (2019 ATC Oaks) have recorded second placings, Quintessa ran third in the 2020 ATC Oaks and Miravalle finished fourth in the VRC Oaks last spring.
Harmony Rose, $3.40 with TAB on Thursday, ran her first 1000m in the Vinery in 1:00.37 (Punter’s Intelligence) and that was more than 17 lengths faster than the other 2000m races on the day so it’s no surprise she was vulnerable late.
Newnham said the run took a little out of her initially but she bounced back in no time and at this stage can’t see it as an excuse ahead of the Oaks.
“She recovered quickly which was good to see because it was a tough run,’’ he said.
“She was back eating her normal feed on Sunday night, she missed a bit the first night which is normal after a run for her then she’s had a good couple of weeks leading into it.
“She’s coming out of Group 1 form and that looks stronger form than the Adrian Knox but as we saw last year the Adrian Knox form stood up in the Oaks.
“Once you get to 2400m it’s a different story altogether. The thing that could even it up is if we get rain, not because Harmony Rose can’t handle it but Bargain does.”
Bargain entered Oaks calculations with an eye-catching second in the Group 3 Adrian Knox (2000m) last Saturday and as Newnham alluded the ‘low road’ to the classic can often throw up the winner.
Last year Colette graduated from provincial races to win the Adrian Knox and the Oaks, just four starts ago Bargain won a Class 1 at Wyong.
“I thought she was a good chance of winning last week until the barrier draw and that forced us back to last,’’ Newnham said.
“From barrier one she might be able to settle midfield, take up a good position.
“She’s come through the race well. I had a ride on her Wednesday morning to see how she was and she’s bounced out of it. What would be suitable for her would be if we got a bit of rain.”
Harmony Rose runs second in the Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill
Meanwhile, Hungry Heart will again loom as a threat to Harmony Rose and company and her trainer Chris Waller said, following a piece of work on Thursday morning, he’s confident the Frankel filly will run a strong 2400m.
Waller has won the Oaks three times, with Royal Descent in 2013 then Unforgotten (2018) and Verry Elleegant in 2019.
“There’s no concern over the distance based on her very good win last start,’’ Waller said.
“Going into the Star Oaks on Saturday she’s got winning form, I love the way she finished off.
“What we’ve seen with her is the more pressure on in races the better she seems to race so in a true run Oaks I think we will see the best out of Hungry Heart.”