Ladies In Red Photo by Stuart McCormick
DRIVER David Moran admits Ladies In Red will need to call on all her champion qualities to go back-to-back in Victoria's biggest mares race at Melton on Saturday night.
Ladies In Red is $2.30 favourite for the $150,000 Group 1 Queen of the Pacific (2760m) despite a back a row draw (gate 10) and just two lead-up runs after 11 months sidelined with injury.
It is by far the best field of mares she has faced, and sits alongside the Group 1 Rising Sun at Albion Park last year as the strongest race Ladies In Red has contested.
In contrast to the Rising Sun, where she drew well and led, Ladies In Red won't get many favours from the back row this week.
"She's going to need to improve on the two runs back, but she can and she's heading in the right direction," Moran said.
"The step out to the staying trip (2760m) will really suit her more than most this week, and having more depth in the race will hopefully mean she doesn't have to do all the work herself."
Importantly, Ladies In Red's two runs back from injury had convinced Moran she still had all her great qualities.
"She was just beaten first-up and then did what she's often done and switched off a bit when she hit the front last week," he said.
"There's a been a couple of times, in key races, through her career when I've given her a real spark up in the warm-up, and this will be one of them."
"If anything, she's felt a bit more relaxed in the last couple of runs back than at her top, but I'll have her sharp and ready when it's go time this week."
"We've probably all had her in cotton wool a bit since the injury, but it's time to get serious."
Moran concedes Ladies In Red's stablemates Encipher, Amore Vita and Treachery have continued to improve and closed the gap during her time out.|
"No doubt, look at what they've done," he said.
"Encipher is the one who will probably relish the long trip as much as Ladies In Red, and she's got the front row."
"I've also been really taken by Treachery. She's absolutely flying and got close to us last week."
"It'll be a great race, and she'll have to really earn it this week, but you'd expect that in a Group 1."
The other key factor in the race is NSW raider Braeview Kelly, who recently switched to Jason Grimson's stable.
She ran third to Ladies In Red in last year's Queen of the Pacific and has since won the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Mile at Menangle.
Braeview Kelly wasn't at her top during a Queensland winter campaign but has returned with a Menangle win and fourth against the boys in a free-for-all last Saturday week.
Former trainer Jack Trainor takes the drive for Grimson, and Braeview Kelly can use early speed from gate four.