Potentially the best filly Barry Purdon has trained

By Michael Guerin

Champion trainer Barry Purdon may be farewelling one stable star as he rates another potentially the best filly he has ever trained.

Purdon pulled off a master plan capturing the A$150,000 Victoria Oaks at Melton on Saturday night with Belle Of Montana, thanks in no small way to an ice cool drive from Zac Butcher.

Butcher was calm from the ace draw at the start before pulling out to lead soon after, then handed up in the $1.30 favourite at the 1200m mark before beating leader Kualoa for speed up the Melton passing lane.

The confidence to hand up on a hot favourite mid-race in Australia can get you abused for weeks and even stain careers if it goes wrong and is one of the great differences in driving styles between the two countries.

But Butcher knew what he had in front of him and while she has an all-round game, Belle Of Montana sharpest weapon is her sprint.

She adds to the Oaks at just her ninth start to the group on Sires’ Stakes Championship she won at Alexandra Park on New Years Eve and Saturday’s win came down to some meticulous planning from Purdon.

He did his research to find out where other stars fillies like Princess Tiffany were going and then set Belle Of Montana for an early Nevele R Fillies heat at Alexandra Park so she would be qualified for that final next month, opening a window for her to contest the Victoria Oaks.

With group one victories on both sides of the Tasman she is now one of the most valuable female pacers in Australasia but she faces a more even challenging month ahead.

She will clash with NSW Oaks winner Princess Tiffany three times in four weeks as the pair contest the Nevele R Final on May 10, the NZ Oaks a week later and the Jewels on June 1 and if either can win two of those three that would go a long way to securing them the Filly of the Year title.

“She is a very, very good filly and could be as good as any female pacer I have had in time,” says Purdon.

But as he takes aims at more group ones with Belle Of Montana, Purdon may be saying goodbye to his stable star Jack’s Legend, who is under offer to a United States buyer.

“He has been vetted and it sounds like the deal could be done,” said Purdon.

“He has done a great job here and will be a very good horse for over there if he is sold.”

Jack’s Legend may have only won 10 of his 41 starts but among them was a Harness Jewels three-year-old and he raced the absolute best his entire career, splitting Lazarus and Tiger Tara was second in the New Zealand Cup 18 months ago.

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