Babe in the Oaks

Randwick trainer John O’Shea is hoping his lightly-raced filly Zabeel Babe can show enough improvement at Randwick this weekend to earn a shot at Queensland Oaks glory next month.

Three-year-old Zabeel filly Zabeel Babe has had just two runs to date, but has been unable to finish in the money as yet.

After running fifth in a 1300m maiden on debut at Kembla Grange on April 23, last-start Zabeel Babe was well beaten crossing nearly 10 lengths away from Song Shan over the mile at Warwick Farm when weakening on the straight.

On Saturday O’Shea will saddle her up in the $70,000 Australia’s Favourite Air Handicap (2000m) at Randwick with the hopes of qualifying Zabeel Babe for the $400,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) at Eagle Farm on June 4.

Zabeel Babe is still not guaranteed a start in the Queensland Oaks, this year’s edition of the Brisbane Winter Carnival classic shaping up as one of the strongest in years.

One of the 21 first Queensland Oaks acceptors on Wednesday, Zabeel Babe a $101 roughie in the current markets that are lead by in-form Kiwi filly Scarlett Lady.

Hoping to turn Zabeel Babe’s form around, O’Shea will adopt new tactics with her on Saturday with Christian Reith retaining the ride.

“If she was to run well on Saturday she would run (in the Oaks),” O’Shea confirmed.

“She’s really pleasing me.

“She blotted her copybook the other day (at Warwick Farm) but I gave a positive instruction to Christian (Reith) and on reflection it was probably the wrong one.

“We’ll ride her quietly on Saturday and I’ve got a good opinion of her.

“If it’s not this year it will be one year, but she worked particularly well on Saturday morning and she’s obviously going to relish the 2000m.”

Zabeel Babe has the breeding to run the 2400m of the Oaks, her dam being 2003 Sydney Cup winner Honor Babe.

“In them Oaks races half the battle is to run a mile and a half, and she’ll run a mile and a half on her ear,” O’Shea said.

There are currently 14 three-year-olds still engaged for the Randwick race on Saturday following the early withdrawal of O’Shea’s other runner Leading.

Zabeel Babe has drawn wide with barrier 14, moving into gate 13, and faces the likes of the Craig Carmody-trained Single (barrier two) and Peter Snowden’s in-form galloper Zachary (barrier seven).

O’Shea chose to withdraw Savabeel gelding Leading from the race in favour of running him in the $150,000 Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) at Brisbane’s Doomben 10,000 Day also held this Saturday.

After winning back-to-back races in April, Leading most recently finished a game third to Charing Cross in a Benchmark 70 race over 1800m in Sydney.

He is rated a $10 chance in the Grand Prix Stakes, markets lead by Robert Heathcote’s Fillydelphia ($4.20) and Chateau Fort ($5.50).

Along with Zabeel Babe, O’Shea will saddle up four other runners at Randwick on the weekend including his progressive Danehill Dancer filly Steps In Time in the $70,000 Fujitsu General Handicap (1400m).

First-up this season Steps In Time ran a close second to Red Tracer in the Listed PJ Bell Stakes (1200m) at Canterbury before her last-start third to Pimpala Secret in the Listed Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m) on April 30.

On Saturday she will jump from barrier seven with apprentice hoop Taylor Lovelock-Wiggins engaged for the ride and set to claim two kilograms off Steps In Time’s allocated top-weight of 61.5kg.

“We’ve just bought her along steadily (since the Hawkesbury Guineas) and she’ll run well,” O’Shea said of Steps In Time.

“It’s obviously a big impost but she’s got a bit of quality about her.

“If she doesn’t win and the weight beats her then we’ll just turn her out.”