Golden Slipper winner Crystal Lily may get the chance to throw down the gauntlet to unbeaten mare Black Caviar with more aggressive riding tactics in the Newmarket Handicap.
Co-trainers Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra are not convinced the three-year-old filly is at her best up the straight but believe they erred with their approach to the Lightning Stakes at Flemington in which she finished fifth to the champion mare on February 19.
Zahra said Black Caviar had every stable bluffed including his own in that she had been able to dominate her races in the early stages virtually unchallenged.
He hinted that should Crystal Lily run in Saturday’s Newmarket, the tactics would be more aggressive and she would run her own race and not Black Caviar’s.
“Everyone just wants to try and sit off her back and then try to go with her,” Zahra said.
“We fell into the trap as well last time with Crystal Lily and should have just let her run,” Zahra said.
“Lily is at her best when she is in full flight but we stuffed up.”
He pointed to the slow first 200m sectional in the Lightning Stakes of 13.75s which showed a lack of aggression from the competition.
She then blew away her opposition away with a sub-32s middle 600m and was able to win easily pulling up.
Zahra said that while the result may not have been any different, some initiative was needed if there was any chance of avoiding a repeat of the dominance Black Caviar showed in the Lightning.
“She would probably just go bang and win anyway but at the moment it is like everyone is allergic to her. They don’t want to be in front of her early.”
Zahra said a final decision on a Newmarket start for Crystal Lily had been deferred a until acceptance time on Wednesday.
“We will see how she does this week before we make our minds up,” Zahra said.
A winner of four of 10 starts, Crystal Lily has failed at her only two runs up the straight, including the Lightning.
Zahra said her disappointing “straight” record, which also included a third at her second start on Melbourne Cup Day two years ago, was a worry.
However he confirmed stablemate Response, winner of the Sir Rupert Clark in the spring, would chase her second Group One success in the feature sprint.
Black Caviar dominates Newmarket betting at $1.30 while Response is fourth favourite at $21 and Crystal Lily at $51.
Zahra joked that a tank was needed to stop Black Caviar from winning her 10th race in row.
He said Response, who won the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield last spring, had been targeting the Newmarket since she failed at 1600 metres in the Toorak Handicap in October.
“We always thought she was a better sprinter and we have trained her for the sprints this campaign,” Zahra said.
“We have brought her up slowly and kept her on the fresh side.”
First-up in the Oakleigh Plate she was held up for a run for the length of the straight when a close seventh to Eagle Falls on February 26.
Zahra said she was also well weighted on 52kg for a Group One winner with Craig Williams riding her.
“She didn’t have an overly hard run last time and she should run well,” Zahra said.