THE $1 million VRC Crown Oaks is one of the biggest days on the Melbourne Spring Carnival calendar and this year has seen one of the best betting wars in its history.
There are 12 runners in the Group 1 field, but punters are firmly fixed on three horses that all look genuine winning chances.
The Ciaron Maher-trained Jameka is currently holding favouritism at most bookmakers, but early Oaks favourite Sacred Eye is coming back for more support. The third runner is last-start winner Ambience, which will attract plenty of support late in the market.
They aren't the only horses that can win, so we have previewed every runner and all the latest info and updated odds.
1. Pasadena Girl – $7.50
Trainer: Peter Moody
Jockey: Hugh Bowman
It kicked off this campaign with a second placing behind Stay With Me and it hasn't been too far away since, but it wasn't a winning chance in either start.
Its best asset are its track stats which read very well. It is unbeaten in two starts at Flemington and the bigger track looks right up its alley. There has been some solid support in the betting and it's into $7.50 after being as high as $8.50 earlier in the week.
Hugh Bowman rides and it looks a solid winning hope.
Projected finish: 5th
2. Jameka – $3.80
Trainer: Ciaron Maher
Jockey: Damien Oliver
The Ciaron Maher-trained filly is a professional young horse which returned to winning form by taking out the Group 2 Vase at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day. That came over 2040 metres and it should have no problems stepping up over more distance.
It has missed a placing in only one of eight career starts and it finished in front of Tarzino last start which has subsequently won the Victoria Derby.
Damien Oliver rides which is also a big plus and punters have climbed aboard all week. The daughter of Myboycharlie is currently paying $3.80, but it did drop to $3.60 earlier in the betting.
Projected finish: 3rd
3. Sacred Eye – $4.20
Jockey: Ryan Moore
Sacred Eye looks the only runner that is guaranteed to get the Oaks distance. The well-bred daughter of High Chaparral is bred to perfection for this and its win last time out suggested rising in distance will be no problem at all.
The three-year-old was a winner on debut by 3.25 lengths before finishing second behind recent Flemington winner Don't Doubt Mamma and the talented Badawiya.
The win in the Group 3 Neil Robinson was classy when it won by a length over Lizard Island and it looked as though it could stay all day. That bodes well for this and the experience of Ryan Moore in the saddle will only help here.
Strong winning chance and despite drifting in the market, it remains firm at $4.20.
Projected finish: 1st
4. Ambience – $4.40
Trainer: John O'Shea
Jockey: James McDonald
You always have to respect a stable like Godolphin in big Group 1's and this runner looks a very good chance of winning.
The filly by Street Cry won well at Randwick three starts back by 2.5 lengths and it subsequently got backed hard in the Group 3 Ethereal, but it couldn't catch Dawnie Perfect. That form should stack up well for this and it was able to follow that up with a dominant victory.
That came at Flemington in the Group 2 Wakeful where it destroyed a quality field by 3.5 lengths and that should be noted by punters. It has drifted out from $4 to $4.40, but most of the favourites are on the drift and it still remains one of the top winning chances.
Projected finish: 2nd
5. Honesta – $13
Trainer: John Thompson
Jockey: Craig Williams
It's a really honest filly, no pun intended. The daughter of Monaco Consul is by a very good stayer and there has been nothing wrong with its form this season.
After back-to-back wins at Doomben, it went to Randwick in the Group 2 Tea Rose where it finished second behind Pearls and then it took on a very tough Flight Stakes field and ran second to Speak Fondly.
Punters jumped aboard last start when it finished second in the Ethereal Stakes, but they have let it go for this race, despite beating the likes of Ambience in that race.
The $13 looks like good each way value in an even race.
Projected finish: 4th
6. Dawnie Perfect – $12
Trainer: Clarry Connors
Jockey: Jim Cassidy
The daughter of champion U.S sire Big Brown only battled behind Ambience last time out, but its win in the Ethereal should be taken note of.
It has Zabeel breeding in its bloodlines and rising in distance should be no problem, so don't discount purely on the rise up in distance.
This will be one of Jim Cassidy's last rides and he'd love to go out with a bang by winning the Crown Oaks, and Dawnie Perfect looks a solid each way hope in the race. We would have liked to see it finish off a little better last start, but consider at a price.
Projected finish: 6th
7. The Grey Flash – $101
Trainer: Robbie Laing
Jockey: Chris Parnham
After winning the Group 3 Sires Produce in Adelaide, things looked good for the grey filly, but it hasn't provided much excitement in four Melbourne runs since.
Its best finish was a sixth in the Ethereal where it made good ground, but it was very average last start and its breeding suggests it won't see out the trip.
The $101 looks right on the money and we wouldn't be including it in our betting selections.
Projected finish: 13th
8. Muzyka – $15
Trainer: Greg Ryan
Jockey: Brenton Avdulla
An interesting runner which doesn't have much exposed form apart from its good third in the Group 2 Wakeful behind Ambience.
The daughter of Danehill Dancer flashed home after being blocked in the straight and the bodes very well for backers here.
It only broke maiden status the start prior when winning at Wyong by 5.25 lengths and to go from maiden ranks to Group 1 glory in three starts is tough.
It might come to the end of it late, so keep in mind for place options only.
Projected finish: 9th
9. Ritzy – $67
Trainer: James Cummings
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
To put it abruptly, Ritzy's form just doesn't stack up well against some of the more quality thoroughbreds in this race.
The Anthony Cummings-trained filly won its maiden at Hawkesbury three starts back and its two starts since haven't given us much confidence. It ran third at Ballarat and eighth in the Wakeful, but it never looked a winning hope.
The rise in distance could be a positive for it, but we can only assume its condition will give out and a place chance would be its only hope.
Projected finish: 10th
10. Zarabeel – $34
Trainer: Leon and Trevor Corstens
Jockey: Stephen Baster
Whenever you see “beel” in the name you should take notice over the longer distances, but does Zarabeel have a winning chance?
Yes it does. The three-year-old by Savabeel is still a maiden runner, but the rise in distance looks ideal and it was finishing off its race very nicely in the Wakeful last start.
Over the 2500-metre distance, expect it to settle near the rear of the field and if the pace is on up front, it could finish over the top of them. Unfortunately like many staying races these days, it could become a sit-and-sprint, which would leave Zarabeel with no chance of winning.
Include it in first-four options despite it drifting from $26 to $34.
Projected finish: 8th
11. Dulverton – $16
Trainer: Robert Smerdon
Jockey: Dwayne Dunn
The daughter of Commands has been nicely supported after opening at $17 and it looked a solid chance after finished fifth last start.
That effort came in the Listed Geelong Classic behind Extra Choice and it appears as though the rise in distance is what it has been looking for.
Trainer Robert Smerdon rarely lines them up if he doesn't think they can win, and the market support suggests it has a genuine chance of winning.
It has drawn nicely and Dunn is in very good riding form. Watch the market and if it comes for more support it might pay to cover it on an each-way basis.
Projected finish: 7th
12. Princess Aria – $101
Trainer: Marc Conners
Jockey: Michael Walker
After finishing off well for fifth in the Ethereal Stakes, the filly then ran very average in the Wakeful when it ran 12th of 15 runners.
It has never won or placed in eight career starts and a win in this would be a bigger upset than Prince Of Penzance in the Melbourne Cup.
We simply can't suggest backing this runner.
Projected finish: 12th