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Ad Mr Maestro won last year's Penfolds Victoria Derby Preview. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

Spring Previews set to shape Classics

22 September 2023 Written by Brad Bishop – Racing & Sports

The Victoria Racing Club could not have realistically wished for a better result when it introduced the Derby and Oaks Trials in 2017.

Inaugural Derby Trial winner Tavistock Abbey didn’t make it to the 2500-metre Group 1 on Day 1 of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, but that year’s Oaks Trial had a profound effect on Cup Week’s fillies staying feature.

The Gai Waterhouse-trained Pinot broke her maiden in the Oaks Trial and reigned supreme in the Group 1 Oaks six weeks later.

Neither 1800m event, both of which will be run at Flemington this Sunday, has provided a winner of one of the VRC’s Classics since, but that’s not to suggest they have not had an impact.

Southern Moon and Hit The Shot both placed in the Derby after running well in the colts and geldings’ Trial, while last year’s winner Mr Maestro followed up with wins in traditional Derby lead-ups, the Listed Super Impose Stakes (1800m) and Group 3 Norman Robinson Stakes (2000m), before placing fourth in the Derby.

Greysful Glamour has been the shining light from an Oaks Trial perspective, beating home all bar Aristia in the Oaks after winning the 2018 fillies’ qualifier.

The VRC will be optimistic this year’s $75,000 events, which are now known as the Spring Previews, can have an impact on this year’s Cup Carnival.

In the past, horses have stamped their Derby or Oaks credentials in the Previews, but this year’s races have attracted horses who are already considered leading contenders for their respective events.

Current Kennedy Oaks favourite Served Cold won her maiden at Geelong last start. (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)

Oaks favourite Served Cold headlines the 11-horse field Kennedy Oaks Preview (1800m), while leading Derby fancies Ambassadorial, Apulia and Fistsoffury are all among the field of 13 for the Penfolds Victoria Derby Preview (1800m).

Mr Maestro, who is considered one of the classier Derby Preview winners, ran a Timeform figure of 100 to win last year, a number Apulia has already run to twice; when second in the Group 2 MSS Security Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) as a two-year-old and again last start when second to Fistsoffury over 1500m at The Valley.

Fistsoffury already owns a peak Timeform figure of 99, while Ambassadorial ran to 98 when winning at The Valley last start.

Sunsource is the other runner in the Penfolds Victoria Derby Preview who has run to 98, a figure he achieved when winning the Byerley Handicap (1800m) – which carries a Derby ballot exemption – in July.

Pinot won the 2017 Kennedy Oaks after success in the Oaks Trial. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Others engaged are last-start maiden winners Gold Bullion, Sunsets and Thorny Path, along with Group 3 placegetter Waverley, and fellow maiden Gawnski, who was runner-up to Served Cold last time out.

Shamus Award filly Served Cold rocketed up Oaks betting charts with that win in a 1700m Geelong maiden, which was just the second trip to the races for the sister to ATC Australian Oaks winner El Patroness.

Also trained by Danny O’Brien, Served Cold carries the same colours at El Patroness and Miami Bound, winner of the 2019 VRC Oaks.

Others engaged include Chris Waller’s Konasana, Global Pivot and the unbeaten Contributer filly Harlow Mist, who is from the stable of John Sargent, who produced So Dazzling to win last year’s Oaks Preview.

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