Leading Ascot trainer Fred Kersley knows Saturday’s Belmont Oaks will be a tough task for his well-bred filly Svara, but he hopes she rises to the challenge when taking on deserved race favourite Sweet Serenity.
Trevor Andrew’s classy filly Sweet Serenity comes into the $80,000 Listed Belmont Oaks (2000m) on the back of a brave fourth to gun three-year-old The Underworld in the Belmont Guineas.
Her run there against open company has seen her installed as the firm $2.50 favourite in the Belmont Oaks odds for Saturday, but Kersley believes his promising daughter of top sire Blackfriars, Svara, can claim an upset.
Kersley is out for his second Belmont Oaks success having saluted in the three-year-old fillies’ feature in 2003 with Lady Go Bello.
He also has prepared an Oaks runner-up with Boardwalk Lady in 1997 and ran third with Loml in 2007.
Svara came up trumps with the inside running with barrier one of the 14-starter plus two emergency Belmont Oaks final field, the Steven Parnham-mount currently rated a $10 chance.
“It’s a good barrier, no doubt, but she can’t get too far back or she’ll need a lot of luck,” Kersley said.
Having won back-to-back races over 1650m and 1600m respectively at Belmont this prep, Svara last ran an eye-catching fifth in the Belmont Guineas.
She crossed only one and a quarter lengths away from The Underworld, Chris Gangemi’s High Chaparral gelding one of the early favourites for Saturday’s $125,000 Group 3 Strickland Stakes (2000m) at Belmont, and was beaten out of third by just quarter of a length by Sweet Serenity.
Fifth to Dreamaway in the Group 3 WA Oaks (2400m) in March, Svara was badly blocked for a run in the Guineas making her close finish even more gutsy.
On Saturday Svara will be out to turn the tables on Sweet Serenity, and has genuine chance to do so from her rails draw while the favourite must overcome a wide gate 12 start.
Kersley has been preparing Svara all prep for the Belmont Oaks and has seen enough from her consistent and brave campaign to suggest she will peak exactly at the right time.
“She’s held up through a long campaign,” Kersley said.
“It’s a tidy field with a few unknowns over the journey.
“She gives me every indication she would get it – she’s very dour and hits the line well.
“She’s already a tough nut and has done a good job this preparation.
“She’ll be in the mix.”
Looking to the future, Kersley believes Svara could make a genuine stayer bringing some of the longer Ascot Summer Racing Carnival features into contention for her next season.
“I think she’ll come back from a break a bit stronger and could make a nice staying filly, but that’s conditional on how she improves,” he said.
Kersley will also be represented in the Belmont Oaks on Saturday by $61 outsider Grand Dette (barrier eight).
The daughter of Grandera remains a maiden having run fifth in both of her career starts to date, but Kersley is confident she will step up to the 2000 metres at just her third run.
“She gives every indication she’ll get ground, but she’s asked a big question at her third start and against this class,” Kersley admitted.