By Ray Hickson
If there’s one small doubt in champion New Zealand trainer Jamie Richards’ mind about his star filly Amarelinha's prospects at her Sydney debut on Saturday it’s that the Kiwi boys haven’t shaped up in Australia this autumn.
The New Zealand Oaks winner lands in Sydney for the Group 1 $1m The Star Australian Oaks (2400m) at Royal Randwick with an imposing record of five wins from seven starts and seemingly all the attributes to say she will give the Aussie fillies a fright.
She’s already won at 2400m, has won left and right handed and will have her regular jockey Opie Bosson in the saddle – those are all positives for Richards and he’s trying not to be spooked by the failure of the New Zealand Derby form.
“I guess it’s a bit of a concern that the boys haven’t fronted up at this stage and been a bit disappointing,’’ Richards said.
“If you go through the Oaks fillies that have come over and been competitive, Bonneval and Sofia Rosa and those sorts of fillies, it shows it can be done and you just have to have the right horse.
“Hopefully we’ve got the right one with her.”
Richards gave Amarelinha a 1200m trial at Ellerslie on April 6, which she won with a leg in the air, and when he put her on the plane to Sydney on Monday morning (he’s joining her on Wednesday) was satisfied he’s done everything he can.
The Savabeel filly drew seven in the 10 horse field and was on the fourth line of betting at $6 with TAB behind the three local big guns Harmony Rose, Montefilia and Hungry Heart.
“She’s a really nice filly that we’ve got a lot of time for,’’ Richards said.
“She’s been protected a little bit I guess, being kept to the fillies and following a traditional Oaks path.
“But she’s handled it all well, she’s had a bit of time between runs and a trial. It’s not going to be easy for her, I know it’s not a big field but there’s plenty of quality there.
“I’m happy with where she’s at in terms of how she’s eating and she put in a lovely bit of work on Sunday morning before she flew out.”
Epsom Handicap winner Probabeel is back to the scene of one of her best performances in the Group 1 $1m Moet & Chandon Queen Of The Turf (1600m) and Richards said she’s freshened up well since her All Star Mile chances were washed away.
The four-year-old, dominant $2.50 favourite with TAB on Tuesday, is a noted dry tracker so for her to win a heavy track trial over 1200m last week showed the trainer that she’s on target with favourable conditions expected.
“She didn’t go a yard on the track in the All Star Mile but she trialled well last Friday and did some nice work on the Kensington track on Tuesday morning,’’ he said.
“We’re happy with where she’s at.
“She’s a proven Group 1 weight for age mare in Australia, and not many can do that, Melody Belle wasn’t able to win a Futurity and that tells you how she’s going and the calibre of horse she is.”
— Sky Racing (@SkyRacingAU) March 20, 2021
There’s plenty of intrigue around the Australian debut of Entriviere in the Group 2 TAB Sapphire Stakes (1200m) after five wins from six starts including a pair of Group 3s on end.
Richards said the Te Akau team has plenty of time for the four-year-old, who didn’t make her debut until last spring, and so far she’s proven to be most effective when on the fresh side so there’s no concern that she hasn’t raced since March 7.
“I don’t think she could have been more impressive in her starts in New Zealand and I’m looking forward to seeing where she fits in,’’ he said.
“She’s a mare that has a lot of raw speed and natural ability. She’s pretty adaptable.
“Everybody says ‘what’s going to be her ceiling in terms of distance?’ Being by Tavistock you’d think she’d get a mile or even a bit further but we space her runs and keep her fresh and she seems to sprint well.”