Trainer Edward Cummings has long thought Arts was an Oaks prospect but found himself in a race against time to give the filly her chance at a classic as a three-year-old.
As fate would have it everything clicked and Cummings produced the filly to score a runaway win in the Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) last week and give herself the chance to go one better than her multiple Group 1 winning stablemate Duais.
That filly, now mare, was also an impressive Adrian Knox winner but found Hungry Heart a shade better in the Group 1 $1m The Star Australian Oaks (2400m) two years ago – she has since notched three majors of her own in three different states.
“At certain points we thought perhaps the autumn was going to get away from us and we were better off targeting Queensland,’’ Cummings said.
“She had genuine excuses in the Kembla Grange Classic, she had trialled well in the interim and that gave everyone confidence that going to the Adrian Knox would be a good stepping stone as far as the big race is concerned.”
On the back of that Adrian Knox win as a $26 chance, Arts was $5.50 with TAB in the Group 1 feature on Friday.
Cummings said while it was only the filly’s third race start she handled herself well in the yard before the race but was open to plenty of improvement if she were to earn a spot in the Oaks.
“We were satisfied with the way she was working and I felt she was a genuine top three or four chance,’’ he said.
“The way she won was a surprise, without a doubt, the way she hit the line the last 50 or 100m was exciting. We felt going onto the track her coat was a long way off being anywhere near her best.
“For her to perform like that was encouraging and exciting.”
What brought Arts undone in her second start, where she failed in the Kembla Grange Classic over a mile, was she didn’t appreciate racing so close in a race that was a bit of a staying test.
Hugh Bowman rides Arts in the Oaks as Sam Clipperton, who was on board in both wins, had a prior engagement for Pierossa.
“I felt like the penny dropped in the race for her and it’s probably why she really kicked on the last bit,’’ he said.
“I don’t think it has taken too much out of her. She definitely travelled too keenly in the run but I think with the benefit of that run and that experience she will be better again on Saturday.
“We have a wonderful opportunity for her to run in a Group 1 very early in her career.
“She has a natural talent for staying, she’s a very natural breather, and she’s going to be a genuine chance in the race.”
On the subject of Duais, Cummings said the five-year-old is preparing to barrier trial next Friday and is being aimed at the Group 1 Doomben Cup.
Randwick trainer John Sargent has four fillies taking on the Australian Oaks and he says they each have some kind of chance if they can step up to the task.
The quartet – Jolted, Mountain Guest, Byron Belle and So Dazzling – are all considered outsiders but as Sargent knows better than most how to stage an Oaks upset given he prepared Gust Of Wind to topple Winx back in 2015 as a $17 chance.
“Jolted is on the way up, I know it was weaker company but I won at Newcastle with Luvaluva before she went down and won the Wakeful and ran well in the Oaks,’’ he said.
“Mountain Guest ran very well last week (second to Arts) leading, she will be up on speed and that run would have cleaned her out well.
“Byron Belle could have been third in the Vinery instead of fifth with the bob of the head. Kerrin galloped her on Tuesday and was happy with her.
“The wetter the track would suit So Dazzling, she was in the worst part of the track last start. If the speed is on she’ll definitely stay.”
– Racing NSW