Chris Voak, last season’s champion driver in Western Australia, is delighted that Black Jack Baby has drawn the coveted No. 1 barrier in the $150,000 WA Oaks at Gloucester Park on Friday night and he is planning for an all-the-way win in the testing 2536m classic event for three-year-old fillies.
“We have been drawing badly for so long, and now she gets her chance to lead,” he said. “Nothing can cross her and she has been beaten only once when she has set the pace.”
Black Jack Baby, bred, owned and trained by Shane Quadrio, has won at 11 of her 20 starts. She has set the pace in eight of her races, with her only defeat being at her fifth race start, as a two-year-old in the Western Crown Classic when she was second, a half length behind Rumour Has It.
She has enjoyed the luxury of the No. 1 barrier only once, and that was nine starts ago when she led early and then raced three back on the pegs before finishing eighth, nine lengths behind the winner Cordero over 2185m at Pinjarra on January 4 this year.
Voak said that he has not been disappointed with Black Jack Baby’s fourth placings at each of her past two starts (behind Newsy and Unconditional) when she was restrained from wide barriers.
“In those races Black Jack Baby was four deep on the last bend, spotting the leaders three lengths,” he said. “This week, she is going to be three lengths in front of her rivals, and they will have to come wide. Her sectionals in those races were the fastest last halves, with times of under 56sec.”
Black Jack Baby will be having her first start over 2536m. Her only appearances in races beyond 2130m have been two starts over 2185m at Pinjarra for an eighth and a second placing. The only runners to have contested a race beyond 2400m are Bettor Beach Belle and Just For Love, who fought out the finish of the $25,000 Country Oaks over 2569m at Bunbury last Saturday week.
Bettor Beach Belle, trained by Terry Ferguson, led early and then trailed the pacemaker Just For Love before finishing strongly to win the event by a neck from that filly, with final quarters of 28.9sec. and 27.8sec.
Michael Grantham guided Bettor Beach Belle to victory in the Country Oaks, but he has opted to handle the Michael Brennan-trained Miss Boudica on Friday night. Aiden de Campo will drive Bettor Beach Belle for the first time in this week’s race.
Bettor Beach Belle will start from the inside of the back liner and should enjoy a good trip behind Black Jack Baby. Miss Boudica, a winner at Gloucester Park in December at Northam last month, is awkwardly drawn at barrier six.
Boyanup trainer Justin Prentice is looking for a strong showing from Always An Angel, a talented filly who has won at six of her 11 starts. She returned to close to her best form last Friday week when she started out wide at barrier eight, settled in last position in the field of ten, dashed forward three wide to move to the breeze at the bell and finished second to Newsy. Always An Angel again will be driven by Gary Hall jnr.
“I thought Always An Angel was back to herself last start when she ran a really strong last 1200m,” said Prentice. “It was a really good lead-up for the Oaks after I was slightly disappointed with her couple of runs before that. The draw (barrier five) is not perfect; it could be worse, so I can’t complain.”
Ace trainer-reinsman Colin Brown is happy with the progress of his filly Joelene, who is favourably drawn at barrier No. 2. She has been placed at four of her five starts as a three-year-old, including seconds behind Black Jack Baby at her past two outings.
“We’ll try to settle as close as we can, and hopefully do a job,” said Brown. “She hung a bit at her latest start when I expected her to have gone better. We have straightened her up, and she should go better. She is a good honest little filly and should be competitive.”
Star trainers Greg and Skye Bond are sure to be prominent with their three runners, last-start winners Newsy and Unconditional and Booraa, a newcomer from New Zealand who will start from barrier three at her Australian debut.
Ryan Warwick will drive Newsy, who should enjoy an ideal passage after starting from barrier two on the back line. Newsy has won in dashing style at her past two starts and should fight out the finish.
Unconditional, an all-the-way winner from the promising Royal Essence last Friday will be driven by Dylan Egerton-Green from the No. 6 barrier, and Deni Roberts will handle Booraa from barrier three. Booraa has shown promise at her four starts this season for two wins, a second and a third, in New Zealand.