Knowing his best chance of 2015 Blue Diamond Stakes success lies in Fontiton, local horseman Robert Smerdon may opt to bypass the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival Group 1 and target the Breeders Stakes with fellow filly Thurlow instead.
Undefeated Turffontein filly Fontition won the Inglis Banner by six lengths on debut in late October before returning at Sandown-Hillside on Australia Day to take out the Group 3 Blue Diamond Fillies Preview (1000m) by a narrower margin.
Her form so far has the bookies taking no chances and she sits as the $5 second favourite through Ladbrokes.com.au to win the $1 million Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield Racecourse on February 28.
She was the former favourite but Secret Agenda ($4.80) has slipped into top spot, Mick Price’s Not A Single Doubt filly a three and a half-length winner on debut in December at Moonee Valley.
The top fancies will face off in the $200,000 Group 2 Blue Diamond Fillies Prelude (1100m) Saturday week, the favourite of that race to also jump favourite in the BD Stakes.
Smerdon’s other hopeful, the Sheikh Fahad al Thani-raced Thurlow meanwhile is an $81 roughie shot in the latest Blue Diamond Stakes odds.
The improving daughter of Sebring has had two starts for one win to date and returns to racing this Saturday at Sandown.
On debut she ran a close second to Antelucan in the Group 3 Ottawa Stakes (1000m) on Melbourne Cup Day before a win at Sandown in the Listed Merson Cooper Stakes (1000m) where she nosed out Miss Gidget for the win.
After a fourth in a Cranbourne trial over 800m on January 29, Thurlow resumes at the home of her maiden win taking on eight rivals in the $150,000 Group 3 Chairman’s Stakes (1000m).
Chairman’s Stakes betting has Danny O’Brien’s Maribyrnong Plate winner Prompt Return as the $3.10 favourite, the Beneteau colt last seen running second to Carriages in the Magic Millions Clockwise Classic at Ballarat.
Thurlow meanwhile is the $4 second pic followed closely by Blue Diamond Fillies Preview runner-up Haybah ($4.40) in a race that also includes her well-supported but unraced stablemate More Than Most and the Wez Hunter-trained Parcel.
Should Thurlow step up and win the Chairman’s Stakes then Smerdon will be seriously considering a Blue Diamond bid.
If she’s not quite up to the class then he will rely on Fontition in the Group 1 and instead set Thurlow on an easier autumn path targeting something like the $150,000 Group 3 Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on Super Saturday, March 14, instead.
“Whether she’s good enough (for the Blue Diamond), I don’t know,” Smerdon told Racing Victoria this week.
“Things can change – track conditions, barriers and all those sort of things – but Fontiton has always been the superior of the two.
“Based on that, Thurlow might be better off going for an easier target, the Breeders Stakes or something like that.
“But she’s going along really well. She trialled last week and she went OK and Saturday’s run will tell us where we sit.”
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