An outside draw has not helped the chances of Festival Dancer in the Queensland Oaks, but trainer Matthew Smith is hoping a seven-day back-up will.
A Group 3 winner over a mile in the spring, Festival Dancer will jump from barrier 18 in Saturday’s Eagle Farm classic and while Smith isn’t rapt with the gate, he is more concerned about her relaxing in the run.
The filly raced keenly when seventh to Barb Raider in The Roses (2100m) last weekend and Smith said a repeat of those antics would bring her undone over the 2200m Oaks journey.
However, he is optimistic a quick turnaround back to the races could be key to taking the fresh edge off her.
“I’m hoping it will and that she might come out and settle a bit better because she needs to settle to finish it off,” Smith said.
“She didn’t relax very well the other day. She pulled hard in the run and because she didn’t relax, she didn’t sprint.
“Her runs have been OK and if she can get a little bit of a break in the main race on Saturday, she will be there when the whips are cracking.”
ATC Australian Oaks runner-up Gypsy Goddess remains a solid $4.20 Queensland Oaks favourite to deliver trainer David Vandyke his first win in the blue riband, with Aravene ($4.40), Barb Raider ($8) and Belle Savoir ($9) the only other runners at single-figure odds.
Renowned trainer of stayers John Sargent will now have two Oaks runners with second emergency Nyota joining stablemate Gin Martini in the field.
Nyota earned a call-up following the scratching on Thursday of the Clarry Conners-trained Mokulua, who has suffered a knee injury that is expected to sideline her for six months.