The judge at New Plymouth had his work cut out on Saturday when less than half a length separated six of the fillies engaged in the Listed Fasttrack Insurance Oaks Prelude (1800m) at the finish line.
In a desperate finish it was Cambridge visitor Seven Seas (Roc de Cambes) who got in the deciding stride as she stormed home out wide to down the gallant Nothing Compares, who had disputed the pace throughout, by a nose with Heart Of The Ocean a head back in third, just ahead of Amal Rose.
The Oaks Stud-bred and raced Seven Seas had broken her maiden status over 2000m at the venue back in late December with the drop back to 1800m after a brief freshen-up playing in her favour.
Well handled by Rosie Myers, who had been aboard for her last start success, the Tony Pike-trained runner settled beautifully in midfield behind the strong pace set up in front. Angled to the outside by Myers she still looked a remote possibility of winning the contest when six lengths from the lead turning for home however she knuckled down to her task to thrust her head in front where it mattered most.
Pike, who managed to catch the race on television from Queenstown where he is enjoying some well-earned R&R after a week of high-pressure activity at the National Yearling Sale, was delighted with the effort by his charge.
“It was a superb run as she has been a work in progress all the way through and we were throwing her in the deep end a little,” he said.
“She has always shown she could stay so dropping back from the 2000m at her last start was a question but she showed plenty of heart to get up and win.
“It’s great for The Oaks Stud as well as they have played a big part in my career so it’s nice to be able to win a good race for them.”
Pike will now set the Roc de Cambes filly for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld New Zealand Oaks (2400m) in March, where he already holds a strong hand in the race with stablemate and TAB Fixed Odds ($6) favourite, Loire.
“You’d have to press ahead to the Oaks with her now after that run,” Pike said.
“She is a dead-set stayer so the 2400m will be right up her alley.
“She will have one more run which is likely to be in the Sunline Vase (Gr.3, 2100m) at Ellerslie on February 29 as it’s a race that suits her programme and one we have used for this task in the past.
“Loire is heading to the Fillies Classic (Gr.2, 2000m) at Te Rapa next weekend so the pair won’t clash before the Oaks.”
– NZ Racing Desk