Arguably the unluckiest mare in training, Icebath remains on target to capture an elusive Group 1 win this spring and the Theo Marks Stakes will be the next important step in her quest.
Icebath has twice been narrowly beaten in feature races, run down late by Colette in the Golden Eagle and again nabbed in the shadows of the post by Cascadian in the Doncaster Mile.
Trainer Brad Widdup is keeping faith that Icebath’s time will come and he has earmarked one of the jewels in Sydney’s spring carnival crown, the Group 1 Epsom Handicap, as her mission.
The five-year-old returned in great order with a first-up third in the Show County Quality in a performance that proved to Widdup she was on track.
“She was caught wide and didn’t get a lot of luck. She gave the first couple of horses three and four kilos, so it was a good, tough run,” Widdup said.
“You just want to see them race well (first-up) and that’s what she did.”
Icebath has continued to please her trainer at home and will head to Saturday’s Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes (1300m) at Kembla Grange where she will again face off with her last-start conqueror Private Eye.
Widdup is negotiating the delicate balancing act of having her fit enough to be an each-way chance in every race she contests, while also making sure he leaves something in the tank for her Epsom grand final.
An awkward draw in nine is likely to sway connections to ride her conservatively and Widdup feels she will continue to improve on whatever she does at Kembla.
“She’s getting there. She will probably need this run again and then she’ll be right, but that’s the whole plan, to have her right third and fourth up,” he said.
“These types of horses, you want them running well and running in the first three, but you don’t want to stuff your chances up down the track.
“She needs to run but we won’t be doing anything too silly. It’d be nice to get a bit of cover and hit the line.”
It is a deliberate strategy and mirrors the lead-up she had into both the Golden Eagle and Doncaster, which she contested on the quick back-up.
She was a $9.50 chance with TAB fixed odds on Thursday, with the speedy Big Parade a $3.10 favourite to make a successful transition to stakes grade.