Day At The Track

Craven's aim for Oaks win

07:11 AM 13 Apr 2016 NZST
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Mathew Craven,Harness racing
Matthew Craven

The plans of a three-year-old filly from Terang to tip out one of Australasia’s finest were given a boost when she drew gate two for Saturday night's $150,000 Nevele R  Victoria Oaks final.Matthew Craven’s pacer Im Wrongly Accused entered the Nevele R Stud Victoria Oaks conversation with a dash down the sprint lane at Tabcorp Park Melton in Friday night’s heats, which secured the three-year-old a place in harness racing's Nevele R  Group 1 Oaks

The performance has Im Wrongly Accused shaping as a threat to Mark Purdon’s all-conquering New Zealand All Stars stable, which already has the Victoria Derby in its keeping and is looking to add the Oaks via short-priced favourite A Piccadilly Princess.

Purdon’s filly won the third and final heat, following on from Heavens Trend – out of Emma Stewart’s Smythes Creek stable – who won an enthralling duel with Dancingwithsierra in the first heat, while the second heat was snaffled by Im Wrongly Accused.

RELIVE ALL THE RESULTS AND RACE REPLAYS

The draw did few favours for Purdon, whose filly was slated for barrier 13. Heavens Trend drew barrier three and Gary Hoban's fancied runner Dancingwithsierra barrier 12.

It all bodes for a ripping race on Saturday night, when Craven's pacer will hope to emulate last week's heat, when she got the perfect sit behind favourite Celebrity Guest - who has drawn barrier one - and surprised even her own trainer-driver with how sharply she finished off.

“She has improved, but is still a little bit from being fit,” Craven said. “The scratching (All In Your Hands) helped and we were able to just put her out behind the favourite.”

Driver Gavin Lang drove Celebrity Guest to a 47.7 lead time, 2.3 seconds slower than the other two heats, and eased through comfortable first (31.9s) and second (30.3) quarters before they started to stretch out to get home in 55 seconds. Once the sprint lane opened Craven eased off Celebrity Guest’s back and Im Wrongly Accused did the rest.

“She probably finished off better than I thought she might have been able to. I was really pleased with the run,” he said. “She had a good run and got the chance to use her really nice speed. They went slow early and it was just ideal for her.”

Craven said Im Wrongly Accused would have to continue her upward trend if she was to be in the finish. “She’s had to take a step up in the heats and will have to take a step up again for the final,” he said.

Michael Howard

 

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