Aristia restored a little bit of VRC Kennedy Oaks order with her win in last year’s edition, which came five days after she won the Wakeful Stakes.
She was the 36th filly to do so, enhancing the status of the two races as one of the most-completed doubles in Austalian racing. The Wakeful was first run in 1861, meaning that almost once in every four years the winner of that race goes on to win the Oaks.
Twenty-two of the 35 Oaks winners – or 62 per cent – since 1984 had their final lead-up run in the Wakeful.
But it’s standing as the premier Oaks guide had come into slight question leading into last year’s race with eight of the previous 12 winners, including the four from 2014-2017, having avoided the 2000-metre Group 2 on Derby Day.
The Ethereal Stakes (2000m) has risen in stature since 2006, having been the final lead-up for three Oaks winners, while the Cox Plate (twice), Empire Rose Stakes, Moonee Valley Vase and a Kembla Grange Class 1 have also been used as successful final lead-ups in that time.
The expectation is that it might again be the key formline this year with the two fillies that fought out the race on Saturday – Miami Bound and Vegas Jewel – among those battling it out for favouritism.
The Oaks hasn’t been a great race for favourites in recent years, but punters have been well-advised to not look too far down the bookies’ boards.
Of course, 2016 was the exception, when Lasqueti Spirit won at $101, but starting from 2003 the next longest-priced winner was Set Square at $7.50.
Thirteen of the 16 winners since then have been $5.50 or shorter, including eight favourites (but only one – Kirramosa, who was $2.70 in 2013 – in the past eight years).
Miami Bound, Moonee Valley Vase runner-up Moonlight Maid and Vegas Jewel are disputing favouritism in Oaks market with Ethereal Stakes winner Gamay the other runner at a single-figure quote.
The Oaks, a set-weights event, has been a race in which class often comes to the fore, with 20 of the past 35 winners having won under saddlecloth number one (Miami Bound this year) or two (Moonlight Maid).
Not many high numbers feature among the list of successful barriers of late, either. Historical data shows that just eight of the past 35 started from a double-digit gate and only two of them since 2006.
Of the four runners at single-figure odds, Gamay (one) and Miami Bound (eight) have drawn inside 10, with Moonlight Maid (11) and Vegas Jewel (15) drawing out.
The Verdict: Would prefer she was displaced as favourite, but as the winner of the race that’s stood the test of time as the premier lead-up who is set to start from a single-digit gate, it’s hard to go past MIAMI BOUND.