THE 2015 Crown Oaks is the jewel in the crown for the three-year-old fillies and it takes place this Thursday at Flemington.
The 2500-metre Group 1 has a stake of $1 million and 12 of Australia's best female thoroughbreds will be vying to add their name to a list of champions.
There is currently a three-horse war in the betting with last start winners Sacred Eye, Jameka and Ambience all battling it out for favouritism.
We have all nine races covered with analysis, odds and the latest updated information. The first race kicks off at 12:05pm where we're greeted with one of the most even betting fields of the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
Race 1 – Red Rock Deli Plate (1700m)
The well-regarded Hipster Girl finally broke its maiden status last start and it could kick on it now. The Jason Warren-trained mare was considered good enough to run in the Group 1 Schweppes Oaks in May and stepping up in distance will only help its chances. It has no form at Flemington, but this field is very even and it should be in the money. It opened at $6.50 and has gained no support, now at to $8.
Yellen has firmed in from $7 to $6.50 after an easy 1.25-length win at Kembla Grange. The four-year-old mare is trained by Chris Waller and despite drawing barrier 13, it does have Hugh Bowman in the saddle and it's by Pentire so the distance will suit perfectly. It has won second up so we're expecting more support to come for it.
Miss Wilson is a former New Zealand runner which was disappointing last time out, but its form prior was solid enough for this. The Simon Morrish-trained filly won by 3.75 lengths at Ballarat two starts back and it was good enough to finish fourth at listed level in New Zealand. It has drawn wide in barrier 19, but it drops in weight to 55kg and it could go close. Chance in the market at $9 after opening at $10.
Race 2 – Swisse Wellness Trophy (1800m)
Firehouse Rock was an impressive winner two back at Caulfield and it only narrowly got beaten last time out. The Hayes/Dabernig-trained gelding has great dry-track form, but has yet to win or place in five starts at Flemington. It looks well suited here as it drops in weight from 57kg to 54.5kg and even though it has drawn wide in barrier 11, it should be around the mark at value odds of $12.
Berisha has been very well backed in from $4.80 to $3.70 after winning by three lengths at Pakenham last start. The Robert Smerdon-trained gelding has an impressive record of three wins, three placings from 13 starts and the increase in distance looks ideal. It last raced over more ground when it finished fifth in the Group 1 Alister Clarke Stakes at Moonee Valley. Craig Williams rides at 54kg which makes it a very good winning chance.
Lucky Paddy came through for punters last start when it won narrowly at Moonee Valley. The Darren Weir-trained gelding also won well three back at Pakenham by 4.25 lengths and it has form around some very good horses. The son of Churchill Downs finished 5.25 lengths behind Alpine Eagle in the Group 2 Autumn Classic and that form should stack up well for this. Punters are getting great value at $10.
Best Bet: Lucky Paddy to place ($3.30) at CrownBet.com.au
Race 3 – Off The Track Subzero Challenge (1400m)
Harbour Grey has been the best backed runner of the field. The Stephen Brown-trained gelding opened at $4 and has since firmed into $3.50 on the back of a solid second placing behind Club Star at Seymour last start. The four-year-old has had only three starts and it should only get better over the longer distances. Its biggest asset is dropping down 5kg in weight to 54kg which makes it a very strong winning chance.
Slate On Edge is a nine-time winner and it has been very close up in its last two starts. The Brett Thompson-trained grey is a three-time winner at this distance and it should lead from an outside barrier. That suits the Flemington track as many winners during the carnival have been on the speed, so consider at $4 which is better than the $3.50 it opened at.
Secret Toy Bizness won an all-grey's race two back at Caulfield and it should be given a chance here. The six-year-old will be ridden by James McDonald and bookmakers have it solidly in the market at $5. It has a win at Flemington from four starts, but its best statistics come at this distance. It has won three from nine and firm footing is its best surface. Nice chance in this from barrier two and a light weight.
Race 4 – Gucci Stakes Red Roses (1100m)
Ottoman is a well-regarded filly for John O'Shea which looked a real up-and-comer when it kicked off its career. The three-year-old was a winner in the Group 3 Percy Sykes at Randwick three starts back and apart from a poor effort last start, it hasn't disappointed in seven career starts. Drawing wide in barrier 15 hasn't been ideal this carnival, but consider in this race.
Lake Geneva turned its form around with a last start win in the Listed Crockett Stakes at Moonee Valley. The Fastnet Rock filly defeated the talented Valley Sweetheart by a nose and it returned to the form it showed as a young two-year-old. International superstar Ryan Moore takes the ride and it looks a solid chance in this with his experience at the helm.
Secret Agenda is a handy three-year-old filly for Mick Price which ran well for second behind Serene Majesty in the Group 3 Thoroughbred Club Stakes last start. The Not a Single Doubt filly has some very nice wins to its credit, of note was a 3.5-length winner on debut when beating Haybah. Its form looks good for this and it should go well.
Best Bet: Ottoman to win at WilliamHill.com.au
Race 5 – TCL Curved Stakes (1800m)
Ragnaar is a former New Zealand runner which was game in defeat last start at Geelong. The Lee and Anthony Freedman-trained gelding has competed against quality opposition in Australia, including a sixth behind Oaks favourite Sacred Eye. It has drawn barrier 15 which will make life tough for it and jockey Blake Shinn, but it has been well supported in the market at $4.20.
Bengal Cat has drawn very wide in barrier 16, but it ran Ambience to within five lengths last start and that should bode well for it here. The three-year-old filly was a winner on this track five starts back and it has since placed in a Group 2 Classic at Moonee Valley. It hasn't got the advantage of a good barrier draw, but Glen Boss is a master rider and bookmakers have it firmly in the market at $6.
Tavi Bay is a light weight chance at 54kg with James McDonald in the saddle. The Henry Dwyer-trained filly finished fourth on debut before winning at Bendigo last start and the rise in distance will only help its chances. It's a daughter of Tavistock and they have been winning left, right and centre lately. Consider at a nice each way price of $9.
Race 6 – Dilmah Earl Grey Stakes (1000m)
Tudor will be suited by the track conditions and it should roll forward from the barrier. The Doug Harrison-trained horse has plenty of potential as shown when second in the Group 2 Euclase at Morphettville. The four-year-old went close at Moonee Valley last start and the 1000 metres should pose a problem down the Flemington straight. It looks a good each way chance at $11.
The Quarterback has been specked in from $8 to $7.50 after finishing second in the Listed Caulfield Village Stakes last start. The Robbie Griffiths-trained gelding likes to get back and finish strongly which makes the distance a concern, but it should get all favours down the straight. It has a good record here with two wins and three placings, so allow another chance against this grade.
Tawteen is a professional mare that has won seven from 14 starts. The Hayes/Dabernig-trained four-year-old was a last start winner at Moonee Valley and it beat a very handy field in doing so. Its only real failure came when it ran 14th in the Group 2 Let's Elope on this track, but this field is much easier. It opened at $6.50 and has drifted out to $7, but consider at that price.
Best Bet: Tudor to win ($11) at CrownBet.com.au
Race 7 – G.H. Mumm Stakes (1100m)
Darren Weir lines up Tuscan Sling which has been very well backed. It could be the Weir/Payne factor, but its opening price of $11 has already dropped down to $8.50. The five-year-old has won four from seven with three placings and it should appreciate running at Flemington. The wide draw of 17 will force it to come down the outside of the straight, but it has a light weight and could run well.
Hidden Pearl is a Queensland runner with plenty of pace. The Barry Lockwood-trained mare has won its last two starts by a combined margin of six lengths and it makes its own luck. It has great gate speed so expect it to lead the field out early and try hang on for dear life. It has won twice at this distance and the final 100 metres will test it, but consider at $9 after opening at $10.
Lumosty is the class runner in the field after winning the Group 2 Caulfield Sprint last start. The four-year-old mare loves Flemington with two wins and a placing from four starts, and it won the Straight Six down the Flemington straight in May. It has won twice second up and all things being equal, the Robert Smerdon-trained runner should go close to winning. It's the current favourite at $3.50 and deservedly so.
Race 8 – Crown Oaks (2500m)
Jameka has been hammered into favouritism for the Group 1 Crown Oaks. The Ciaron Maher-trained filly has been backed into $3.60 on the back of a strong win in the Group 2 Vase last start. Its form prior included placings behind Stay With Me and Miss Gunpower, and many punters think the increase in distance will be ideal. We're not entirely convinced it should be starting as the favourite, but we're respecting the strong market push.
Neil Robinson winner Sacred Eye has drifted from $3.50 to $4, but we still think it's a great winning chance. The Hayes/Dabernig-trained filly won impressively over Lizard Island last start and its breeding suggests it will easily get the 2500-metre distance. It finished second behind Don't Doubt Mamma three starts back and that has subsequently won at Flemington on Cup day. The form stacks up and the price might get out to at least $5.
Ambience is the third well supported runner at $4.20 and even though it has drifted out slightly, we expect that price to firm in a touch. The John O'Shea-trained stayer was a classy 3.5-length winner in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes on Derby day and it's another runner which should have no problems getting the distance. The wide draw won't be an issue over this distance and McDonald will be keen to get a major win in Melbourne. Solid win chance.
Race 9 – Crown Resorts Handicap (1600m)
The Peter Moody-trained Rock Forthe Ladies has now won three consecutive races and its most recent was stylish at Moonee Valley. The four-year-old grey won by 0.75 lengths over Slate On Edge and the rise back up in distance will suit. It is undefeated in two starts at the mile and with Glen Boss riding at only 54kg, it looks a very strong winning chance at $5.50 with bookmakers.
Excites Zelady went close at Moonee Valley behind Lucky Paddy and that form might get franked earlier in the day. The Chris Bieg-trained gelding was forced to cover some ground last start and it has drawn awkwardly again in barrier 14. It loves this distance however, so include on class alone. It opened at $8 and has already firmed into $7. Nice chance in this.
Act Of Valour is a three-time winner from nine starts and it looks to have a good future ahead of it. The John Moloney-trained gelding has placed at this distance and if it can get some luck in the early stages, it could show up at each way odds of $12.
Best Bet: Rock Forthe Ladies to win ($5.50) at CrownBet.com.au