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Chris Johnson saluting on Just Tommy after winning the Canterbury Cup at Rosehill in 1992 still rates highly among Michael Pitman’s favourite memories as a trainer.

Johnson also guided the gelding to the winners’ stall in his previous start at Rosehill when Just Tommy claimed the Listed Frank Underwood Cup from the TJ Smith-trained Aquidity.

Now Randwick is the target for the three-time New Zealand premiership-winning trainer, and veteran hoop Johnson will be in the saddle when Savvy Coup mounts a smash and grab raid on the $1 million Group One Australian Oaks (2400m) on Saturday.

Savvy Coup arrived in Sydney last Wednesday and Christchurch-based Pitman hopes she can emulate Bonneval who also won the Lowland Stakes and New Zealand Oaks before crossing the Tasman to win at Randwick last year.

“It’s a tried-and-true recipe, we just hope we don’t let the side down,” Pitman, who now trains with his son Matthew, said.

Savvy Coup won the Group One New Zealand Oaks (2400m) on March 17 and the time between starts was Pitman’s only query.

“It’s possibly a week more than would have been ideal but we would have had to squeeze one in before we left or race on Doncaster day and I decided not to run then because of the heat,” Pitman said.

“The local horses can handle it but from where I come from 18 is a hot day down south at the moment.”

Savvy Coup had a gallop on the Randwick course proper on Saturday and will have another on Tuesday.

“We’ve been here before. The main thing is keeping the horse comfortable,” Pitman said.

Pitman, who spent 18 months based in Ballarat earlier in his career, last brought horses to Australia for Cranbourne Cup day in 2010, when he had success with Coup Align and So Elusive.

Pitman has never had a filly close to Australian Oaks standard, but he earmarked Savvy Coup as a contender in August.

“In her whole pedigree there’s not one horse in four dams that have won a race beyond 1800 metres but I always thought she was a serious Oaks type of filly,” he said.

“She’s so relaxed.”

Savvy Coup was on the fifth line of betting with the TAB on Sunday as a $5 chance behind the Chris Waller-trained favourite Unforgotten ($3.50).

Luvaluva was the $4.60 second elect after winning the Group Three Adrian Knox Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday.

 
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