Rejuvenated Victorian trainer John Sadler is optimistic that his nicely-bred Zabeel filly Heidilicious can return to form at Eagle Farm on Saturday and score an upset win over a quality field in this year’s Queensland Oaks.
Before her last-start when stepping up to Group company for the first time, Heidilicious had finished in the money in all four of her opening race starts.
Her record boasted two wins, a second and a third but when Sadler tested the consistent three-year-old in the Group 3 The Roses (2020m) at Doomben on May 21, Heidilicious was unable to overcome her extreme outside barrier 16 and after rearing at the start could only finish sixth behind Scarlett Lady.
“She reared badly and missed the start by quite a few lengths meaning she had to go right back in the field and try to make up a lot of ground,” Sadler said of Heidilicious in The Roses.
“She got baulked twice at a vital stage in the straight.
“She found the line really well and her last 200 m was terrific.
“To find the line like she did looks good for Saturday (in the Oaks).”
The smart win by Graeme Rogerson’s Kiwi filly Scarlett Lady in The Roses has seen the daughter of Savabeel installed as the dominant $3.40 favourite to win the $400,000 Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) this Saturday.
Heidilicious, however, is not without her admirers in the Oaks also and is the $6 second elect for the fillies classic despite another horror draw.
Due to be ridden by James Winks Heidilicious will start from barrier 15 on Saturday and Sadler is hoping that with the step up in distance to 2400m, the double-digit gate won’t be an issue and she can hand him his first Group 1 win since resuming as a trainer earlier this year.
“We had planned to go forward if the draw was kind to us and now we have to go back to scratch,” he said on Wednesday.
“It’s a pity (the draw) as she has done really well in Brisbane leading up to the race and she had no luck the other day at Doomben when beaten out of a place.”
“She just had staying written all over her in the final 200 metres (of The Roses).
“But the gate will mean we go back and when you go back most of the time you get beaten.
“An inside draw means you can sneak forward and get a nice run without going mad, but now from out there you are in the hands of others and statistics tell you that when you go back you don’t often win Oaks.”
There is hope, however, with a number of recent Queensland Oaks winners having starter from gate 10 or wider including Miss Keepsake (2010) and Riva San (2008) who both jumped from barrier 11, and 2006 winner Allow who started from gate 12.
“One positive about her drawing wide is she’ll be late to go in,” Sadler said.
Heidilicious has an unfavourable habit of playing up in the barriers, as displayed last-start.
“We’ve toyed with maybe putting a blindfold on her or maybe a barrier blanket but we’ve decided that hopefully the stewards give us two guys to hold her down,” he continued.
“You’ve got to go one way or the other but I think it will probably suit her to go back.
“We’ll be hoping for a solid tempo and a clear run in the straight.
“If the cards fall her way she’s going to be terribly hard to beat.
“I’m reluctant to say that in a Group 1 race but I’m very pleased with her and she looks great.
“She’s trained on very well and you know the 2400m is going to suit her, as well as the bigger track and having had the experience of going the right handed way.”
Sadler does believe that win or lose in the Oaks, the future looks bright for Heidilicious.
“Win or get beaten on Saturday, Heidilicious has a lot of upside,” he said.
“She only had a very light spring and Saturday will be her fourth race start for the autumn, that’s a great bonus coming into the spring again.
“She will have been well educated but nowhere near over-raced.
“She is by Zabeel and they show time and again that they get better and better with age.
“And so we’re quietly confident of her being a very nice four-year-old mare.”
Sadler is also looking a little closer into the future with The Chevron, his Savabeel gelding a possible starter in Saturday week’s $500,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm’s Stradbroke Handicap Day.
After failing to perform at Doomben last Saturday when running seventh to Turnitup in the Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m), The Chevron must now rely on a number of other three-year-olds above them in the Derby order of entry to not accept.
Sitting 23rd on the Queensland Derby ballot on Wednesday, The Chevron is still a top chance in the Derby markets paying $10.
“It’s a bit of a concern at the moment, it’s out of our control so we’ll just sit back and see what happens over the next week,” Saddler said of The Chevron making the Derby field.
Unfortunately the gelding is likely to be pushed further down the order of entry before moving up after Quarterbar won at Doomben on Wednesday and Mr Light Blue was declared as a late entry.
It will be a tense wait for Sadler, who knows just how competitive The Chevron will be if he can get into the classic.
“I watched him work this morning, he’s in terrific order the horse, it’ll be an awful shame if he doesn’t get a run in the Derby,” he said.
“He’ll handle every inch of the 2400m, he’ll be hitting the line hard.”
Sadler also hasn’t ruled out giving Heidilicious a run in the Queensland Derby just seven days after the Oaks.
“If she runs well in the Oaks as I expect there’s every chance she could run in the Derby,” he said.
He also said that Heidilicious, rated an even $10 chance with her stablemate in the Queensland Derby odds, would be his pick of the pair to win the following Saturday.
“If the two of them started, I’d probably prefer the filly,” he stated.