While adamant they aren’t avoiding Black Caviar this Melbourne Festival of Racing, Caulfield trainer Robert Smerdon will bypass the Lightning Stakes first-up with his resuming sprint star Lone Rock and go first-up into the 2013 Oakleigh Plate with her at the end of the month.
Winner of the Group 1 The Goodwood at Morphettville in May of 2011, Fastnet Rock mare Lone Rock is nearing a return to the track after a failed spring campaign last year that culminated with a disappointing 11th to Mental in the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic on November 10.
“She had a few minor issues that saw her racing below what she is capable of in the spring,” Smerdon’s assistant trainer Stuart Webb said.
Lone Rock hasn’t been inside a winners stall since September 2011 when they won the Group 3 Bobbie Lewis Quality at Flemingotn, but Webb is hoping they can regain their form this autumn after a promising jumpout at Sandown last week.
“These mares can switch off as they get older but she still shows plenty of enthusiasm for racing,” he explained.
“She worked on the course proper on Saturday morning and it was terrific work.
“She had an easy jumpout at Sandown last week and will probably have another next week.”
Last year she went to the $750,000 Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) for her first run back when five lengths away fifth to the defending champ Black Caviar.
Peter Moody’s turf darling will shoot for her third straight win in the Flemington sprint but Lone Rock will not be one of her rivals this time.
Instead plans are to take Lone Rock straight into the $400,000 Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on Blue Diamond Stakes Day, Saturday February 23.
“She should get into the Oakleigh Plate with a nice weight and small advantages can mean a lot in those sort of races,” Webb said.
From there all the majors could be on the cards again including the $1 million Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) on March 9 where they will look to improve on their horror 21st (of 22) behind Hay List last year, and the $400,000 Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on the 22nd.
Lone Rock’s William Reid run last year was a solid fourth behind Foxwedge which they backed up from in the Group 1 Robert Sangerster Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville only to run into Black Caviar again and run fourth to the world’s best mare.