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Aristia has broken through for her first win in the Wakeful Stakes at Flemington to stamp herself as a leading VRC Oaks contender.
The Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra-trained filly had been winless in her first nine starts but connections had not lost faith and were convinced she could come to the fore once she got to 2000m.
With Damian Lane aboard, the last-start Ethereal Stakes runner-up worked forward early in Saturday’s Group Two Wakeful (2000m) from a wide draw before tucking in to sit one off the fence in fourth.
Aristia ($6.50) was in clear running from the top of the straight and burst to the front at the 250m before holding off Qafila by three-quarters of a length with a neck to El Dorado Dreaming third.
Verry Elleegant ($2.40) finished fifth and has eased from $2.30 to $3.20 for Thursday’s Group One VRC Oaks (2500m) while Aristia has firmed from $6 to $3.60 on the second line of betting.
“Damian rode her 10 out of 10,” Zahra said.
“It’s race two of the carnival and I reckon you will struggle to get a better one for the rest of the carnival.
“She got a lovely run, relaxed beautifully and she really let down.
“I think the winkers really focused her up today. Now it’s on to the Oaks.”
Zahra is confident the extra distance will not be a worry for Aristia in the Oaks.
“We’ve trained her for these two races,” he said.
“We’ve kept her at this level because we knew she was good enough to win it. So it’s onto the Oaks now.”
Lane said it was a thrill to win a race on Victoria Derby day for Ellerton and Zahra with whom he has a close association.
Qafila’s jockey Jim Crowley and co-trainer David Hayes said the filly needed clear running from behind the leader sooner in the straight, but she hit the line well.
“I’m not sure about the Oaks – we’ll see how she pulls up,” Hayes said.
Trainer Kris Lees said El Dorado Dreaming would miss the Oaks.