Day At The Track

Pocket Rocket favoured in Oaks Trial

02:24 PM 11 Feb 2015 NZDT
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Geoff Webster,harness racing
Geoff Webster

She might bear closer resemblance to a pony than a quality harness racing performer, but ‘pocket sized’ filly Du Vella is all class according to trainer Geoff Webster.

The Kiwi-bred daughter of Courage Under Fire – known as “Mighty Mouse” during his racing days – will be a key player Friday night’s $15,000 AJ Prendergast Memorial Oaks Trial at Ballarat.

Webster acknowledges his youngster faces tough opposition in the time-honoured 2200-metre event, which was first run in 1981 and has produced winners the calibre of Bellas Delight, Jadah Rose, Ashlees Babe and Jasmarilla.

However, the accomplished Bannockburn horseman is confident Du Vella, which is aiming for her fourth consecutive win, can more than hold her own despite an unfashionable barrier 11 draw.

“She’s a lovely filly,” Webster said.  “She only came over here from New Zealand last season and she’s going very well.

“She has progressed through the grades to C2 class quite quickly and I’m really happy with the way she’s developing. She gives me every reason to think she’ll measure up against the best of her age.”

The Oaks Trial provides a launching pad into a raft of features, most immediately heats of the New South Wales Oaks to be run at Tabcorp Park Menangle on February 21. The $200,000 Group One Final will be staged at the same venue on March 1 – TAB.com.au Inter Dominion day.

“New South Wales is our main target at present, so the Ballarat race will give us a better guide to her chances against the good fillies,” Webster said.

“That said, she came off a quick speed to beat a smart field at Melton a couple of starts back after being held up and I do believe she’s a really nice horse.

“She seems to go best when driven sit-sprint and she’s going to need to get the right run into the race from her draw, but I think she’s capable.”

Webster has also qualified recent Kiwi import Angus T Jones for the second of Friday night’s features, the $30,000 Group Three Flying Horse Bistro Tontine Pacers’ Series Final, but does not fancy his chances of notching an unprecedented third consecutive victory in the prized provincial championship.

Webster trained and drove Charlie Machsheen to win the race in 2013 and prepared Flaming Flutter, which was partnered to victory by Greg Sugars, in 2014.

“Angus T Jones is honest, but I think he’ll struggle in that field,” Webster said. “It’s a super line-up and on paper they look like they’re better than him.

“He had every chance when third in a heat of the series at Hamilton (beaten 23 metres) last start and Friday night’s opposition is stronger again so I’d say the best we can hope for is a place.”

Dominant Smythes Creek training duo Clayton Tonkin and Emma Stewart look to have one hand on the Tontine trophy, preparing leading hopefuls Another Safari and Major Secret.

Another Safari will begin from barrier three, with New South Wales Derby winner, Major Secret, to come out of 10.

  • Ballarat Media

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