Sydney-based trainer Robert Smerdon travelled to Flemington for the Melbourne Cup Carnival last year with the lightly raced Kirramosa winning the Wakeful Stakes – Crown Oaks double and is now in with a shot at the same feat this year with Thunder Lady.
Former New Zealand-trained Mastercraftsman filly Thunder Lady was a maiden untested in Group company before her Melbourne debut at Flemington today in the $300,000 Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m).
She came off a third in a Newcastle maiden over 1850m from October 18 and so was up in class and distance today, two things Sargent was confident she would handle.
Having always had a nice opinion of her, Sargent set Thunder Lady for the Wakeful and his targeting paid off today with Blake Shinn giving her a patient well-timed run to beat a better fancied field in the Victoria Derby Day clash.
Proving her dour qualities, on the line today Thunder Lady ($31) had a half-length to spare over the fading Abduction ($2.90) who made her run too early with Fenway ($8) a slashing third after a gun run from the inside alley.
It was Shinn’s first ride on the filly and he was full of post-win praise for both for her and Sargent.
“Full credit to John Sargent, he’s really got a knack of training these fillies,” he said.
“This was the race for her and she got the job done.”
The pace was set in the Wakeful by Robert Smerdon’s last start Caulfield Classic winner Fontein Ruby.
She did it hard early from an outside (barrier 11 of 12) draw, pressing on from deep out to cross and hit the front and set a hot speed.
Fontein Ruby over-raced however, indicating she’d probably come to the end of her preparation.
But the smart pace suited Sargent’s back-marker Thunder Lady.
A genuine staying type, Blake kept his mount off the pace getting a trail into the race by the Damien Oliver-ridden Fenway.
“She appreciated being ridden that little bit quieter today,” Shinn noted.
On the home straight the John O’Shea-trained Abduction, who had enjoyed a lovely run setting about fourth and fifth, hit the front with 200m left to travel.
But she didn’t stay the distance, the Street Cry filly now looking very suspect for the $1 million Group 1 Crown Oaks (2500m) next Thursday back at the track.
Thunder Girl meanwhile was working home well and drove for the lead in the final 100m, hitting the line well in a race that has roughly a 50% strike rate at providing the Crown Oaks winner.
“She really had a good turn of foot that surprised me a little bit,” Shinn said.
“She showed her true class today in a nice effort.”
The Wakeful Stakes has been a tremendous guide to the Crown Oaks over the years with the most recent to complete the double being Kirramosa (2013), Brazilian Pulse (2010), Faint Perfume (2009), Serenade Rose (2005) and Hollow Bullet (2004).
Sargent has always had the Crown Oaks in mind for today’s Wakeful Stakes winner and is more confident than ever she’ll get the trip and be competitive in five days’ time.
“She was always a work in progress,” he told the media after the Wakeful.
“She’s showed us all along she’ll get a trip.
“I’ve always trained her to get over a trip.”
When comparing her to his reigning Crown Oaks winner Kirramossa, Sargent said Thunder Lady wasn’t as brilliant but was a better staying type.
“She’s more of a staying type this one,” he said.
“Bring on Thursday.”
Smerdon also said he had gotten a commitment from last year’s Crown Oaks winning jockey Tommy Berry for the Oaks ride on Thunder Lady next week.
Set to shoot up the Crown Oaks odds at Ladbrokes.com.au Thunder Lady is unlikely to start favourite but will be in with a genuine chance based on her ability to stay and the Wakeful form.
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2014 Wakeful Stakes Results & Finishing Order
Flemington Race 2 – 01/11/2014
|1||12||THUNDER LADY (NZ)||John Sargent||Blake Shinn||–||7||55kg||$31|
|2||3||ABDUCTION||John O’Shea||Kerrin McEvoy||0.75L||6||55.5kg||$2.90F|
|3||9||FENWAY||Lee & Shannon Hope||Damien Oliver||1.5L||1||55kg||$7.50|
|4||4||GOLCONDA||Robbie Laing||Vlad Duric||1.9L||10||55.5kg||$41|
|5||10||YESTERJOY||Clarry Conners||Jim Cassidy||3.65L||9||55kg||$101|
|6||1||FONTEIN RUBY Super Vobis Bonus Scheme||Robert Smerdon||Mark Zahra||4.4L||11||57kg||$3.20|
|7||6||CANDELARA||Bjorn Baker||Joao Moreira||4.6L||2||55kg||$15|
|8||11||HIPSTER GIRL Super Vobis Bonus Scheme||Jason Warren||Ben Melham||6.85L||12||55kg||$41|
|9||2||VEUVELICIOUS||Brent Stanley||Corey Brown||8.1L||4||55.5kg||$41|
|10||5||MUSCOVADO||Gai Waterhouse||James McDonald||8.85L||8||55kg||$9|
|11||7||LADY MACAN||David Payne||Glen Boss||18.85L||5||55kg||$41|
|12||8||SAVAGE COUP (NZ)||Robert Smerdon||Dwayne Dunn||22.6L||3||55kg||$81|
|–||13||VIA CAVOUR Super Vobis Bonus Scheme||Mark Webb||Michael Walker||–||0||–||–|