Belle Of Montana gifted the perfect opportunity
By Michael Guerin
Belle Of Montana has been gifted the perfect opportunity to make the Filly of the Year a one-horse race.
Because if she win the $150,000 NZ Oaks at Addington on Friday night the title is certain to be hers and the barrier draws have put her in the box seat to do just that.
The flying Clevedon filly made it three group ones for her debut season when coming from the second line to win the Nevele R Final at Addington last Friday but it was a third victory of a different kind that might be just as important in the FOTY voting.
For the third time in as many meetings Belle Of Montana beat arch rival Princess Tiffany, who was only third and appeared to race at least a couple of lengths below her best.
Princess Tiffany had started favourite and her trainer Mark Purdon suspects the NSW Oaks winner may have suffering from tying up problems last Friday, although a blood test indicated she was not overly affected by a virus which has troubled much of his team.
Excuses aside, Belle Of Montana now has a 3-0 lead in the head-to-head battle with Princess Tiffany so the latter would need to win both the Oaks this Friday and the Jewels on June 1 to have much chance of turning voters back her way in what is one of the more valuable titles handed out at the annual harness racing awards.
The problem for Princess Tiffany is she has drawn the second line again whereas Belle Of Montana is drawn to start from barrier five and one of the likely early leaders is her own stablemate Havtime.
That and the respect Belle Of Montana has earned with her string of group one wins suggest she will have a healthy lead over Princess Tiffany in the first lap of Friday’s 2600m classic.
And there is the possibility, backed up by the stats, that Belle Of Montana may simply be the better filly.
The market for the Oaks will open today but the pair share Jewels favouritism at $2 each, which may not change greatly until after the draws on Friday week.
That market split is almost mirrored by the two-year-old male pacers, where One Change is $2 and Smooth Deal $2.20 for the Jewels and they also go head to head this Friday night.
They have both drawn well on the front line so neither should have an excuse in the $170,000 Sires’ Stakes and after winning the Sales Series if One Change can down his stablemate again he also take a big lead in their category for the HOTY.
The Sires’s Stakes Trot for the juveniles, the three-year-old Sales Series Trot and an open class trot add some squaregaiting strength to the second-last premier meeting of the season.