Stephen Autridge and Kris Shailer head into Saturday’s Group 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) confident in the staying ability of their Group Two-winning filly Needle And Thread.
The daughter of Makfi was beaten a whisker in the Group 3 Sunline Vase (2100m) last start by high-class filly Amarelinha, who dug deep to prevail on a Slow8 track probably not to her liking.
While the ground will be much better on Saturday at Trentham, with the track rated a Dead5 and a fine forecast, Needle And Thread (barrier 4) has fared better from the draw than Amarelinha (12) and should be suited by the rise in distance.
“That’s a draw that you couldn’t complain about,” Autridge said.
“We are going to be in the first half a dozen in the running, so a handy draw like that is spot on.
“I don’t think she has to lead but I haven’t delved into the speed maps in the race just yet.
“She is on the way up. She has improved from the run in the Sunline Vase.”
Jockey Craig Grylls has the option of playing the role of pacemaker on the talented filly who is bred and raced by Valachi Downs principal Kevin Hickman.
Needle And Thread has shown her best once stepped up to a middle distance, dominating her rivals when winning the Group 2 Royal Stakes (2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day and was six weeks between runs when third in the Group 2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies Classic (2000m) before her gallant effort in the Sunline Vase.
“Breeding wise the 2400m shouldn’t be an issue,” Autridge, who trained Singalong to be runner-up in the Oaks 20 years ago, said.
“Her trackwork gives us every indication she will stay, plus the fact that even after the line in the Sunline Vase Craig was flat pulling her up. She wanted to go around again.
“The race has got to be run the right way to prove us right.
“The last 600-700 metres she has got to be in a position where she can be going forward and not being held up. That is the tricky thing in a mile and a half race because you have got the horses that are not going to see it out coming back in front of you, if you’re not in front of them.
“This filly is just in peak form and looks like she wants to stay.”
A slight query is whether Needle And Thread is as effective racing in the anti-clockwise direction of Trentham, with her two standout performances coming at Ellerslie.
“She won her first start going left-handed at Rotorua,” Autridge said.
“We have mentioned that we wished the Oaks was run at Ellerslie and I think she goes right-handed a touch better.”
A +550 second-favourite in a market dominated by Amarelinha (-181.82), the New Zealand Oaks is the target race for Needle And Thread, who is not nominated for the Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) on April 10 at Randwick.
“I’d say she is probably less than a 50-50 chance to carry on to Sydney,” Autridge said.
“There is the option of a late entry but she has done a great job and going down to Trentham to run over 2400m and then travelling to Australia and running another mile and a half within a short space of time would be asking a lot.”