Improving young filly Kittens from the stables of Mark Kavanagh is preparing to bring some stiff competition to her male rivals in the SA Derby this weekend.
Held as one of two Group 1 features at Morphettville on Sunday, the $350,000 SA Derby (2500m) is a leading showdown for three-year-olds in Adelaide.
One runner out to score her opening Group 1 title is Redoute’s Choice filly Kittens, who ran the ideal Derby trial at the Morphettville track last Saturday.
A half-sister to Group winner Saint Encosta, Kittens improved from her recent string of unlucky runs to win the Group 3 Chairman’s Stakes (2020m) in the final stride, beating home fellow Derby hopeful Backgammon by a mere half-neck.
Prior to her Chairman’s Stakes success, which was just her second career win from 11 starts, Kittens had run a disappointing 10th to the Mick Price-trained Echoes Of Heaven in the Listed Port Adelaide Guineas (1800m).
Echoes Of Heaven is also among the 27 SA Derby nominees that will be cut to the final field of acceptors later today.
Kittens’ breakthrough win came five runs into her career when she scored a narrow victory by a neck over Magnifique Soleil in the Listed Hill Smith Stakes (1800m) at Morphettville last October.
She showed her potential as a stayer to watch when running a brave fourth to Brazilian Pulse in the Group 1 Crown Oaks (2500m) at Flemington last November and will now get another shot at Group 1 glory on Sunday in the SA Derby.
In the pre-field SA Derby markets Kittens is the $8 fourth favourite.
Three horses over the years have completed the Chairman’s Stakes – SA Derby double, but a win by Kittens on Sunday would be the first by a filly.
Nigel Blackiston’s last start winner of the VRC St Leger Right Of Refusal is the clear top elect at $3.60 followed by the Peter Snowden-trained Backgammon ($6) and Encosta De Lago colt Echoes Of Heaven ($6.50).
Having missed out on a run in the SA Oaks earlier this season, connections will see how Kittens comes through the Derby this weekend before making a final decision of whether to press on with a Queensland campaign.
If she does head over to Brisbane for the winter carnival, Kittens’ main aim will be $400,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) at Eagle Farm on June 4.
Kittens is one of 123 early Queensland Oaks entries this year, Kavanagh also nominating his Galileo filly Gunawati.