Having access to the turf accountant’s swollen purse is sine qua non if you want to board the punters’ express that winds its way from North Melbourne to Flemington during the spring racing carnival.

She walked out on me after the Mackinnon Stakes last Saturday, fearing a tongue-lashing for her failure to back the winner, but returned in good working order yesterday to field the Oaks. But she had to wear the fox hat, didn’t she.

But finally, the happy couple had a decent horse race to attend. It has taken this carnival so long to produce a solid staying test that we’d nearly forgotten the thrill of watching a class thoroughbred sit last throughout, peel off the back of the field at the point of the turn and steam home over the top. It’s an adrenaline shot that only racing can deliver, and yesterday it was Faint Perfume and Michael Rodd wot did the job.

All the sit and sprint affairs we’ve been treated to these past months have shown up the lack of initiative by our top jockeys in this carnival. So when Bart’s filly swooped down that long Flemington straight to claim the Group One fillies’ prize no wonder the Oaks Day crowd stood and cheered. They’d taken the poisonous short odds quoted by those legalised vampires in the betting ring and they were happy.

Will this bonny little filly become a breeder or train on and become a star racing mare? Surely she can’t do both. How often they don’t. Injuries, time and fresh rivals catch up with most Oaks winners. Think the past three winners — all special misses whose glories were short-lived: Miss Finland, Arapaho Miss, and Samantha Miss. Two are now retired, the other a pale shadow of her 3yo self. The place-getters in this grueling 2500m staying test are often the ones to follow: certainly Tony Vasil’s classy runner-up Valdemoro looks to be a filly on the make.

The $1 million Group 1 Victoria Oaks for three-year-old fillies has been around since Adam first lost a rib in that great body harvest at the dawn of creation. The rail was out five metres, the track was upgraded to Good 3 and the penetrometer was reading 4.84. It was a grand day altogether.

THE HORSE

Faint Perfume’s daddy Shamardal is a Kentucky blueblood — a multiple Group One winner, Europe’s champion 2yo in 2004, and undefeated on turf. You can see his dominant win in the St James’s Palace Stakes, in the Godolphin blue under Aussie Kerrin McEvoy here.

Her mum is a mare called Zona, and her granny, Zabeel, is the gold standard of southern hemisphere staying families. With genes such as that, no surprises with the zing and staying ability she so amply displayed yesterday. She’s owned by that Malaysian chap in the wheelchair who likes playing chess.

THE RECKONING

One day I am going to learn to respect the wily Kiwi Graeme Rogerson. His horses always overachieve. Yesterday he had a plodding maiden who’d won the grand total of $13,440 — no hope in yesterday’s million dollar race. So we left her out of our trifecta, and she plodded into third place at 50-1. The tri paid $200 and we shouldahadit.

Now bring on Stakes Day — Bart is showing off his Cox Plate winner on Saturday and we have the chance to farewell this carnival in style. In the intercessional words of the good Father Brendan Dillon at Sunday’s 51st annual racing fraternity Mass at St Francis’ Church: “Grant that those who work in the racing industry and those who enjoy it as a fascinating recreation will prosper sufficiently for their families’ temporal good and their own eternal welfare.”

I think that means it’s OK to pray for a juicy trifecta on Saturday. Q.E.D.

PS: The turf accountant said she had to wear the fox hat because it had a very special meaning when pronounced with an Irish accent.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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