Zydeco has confirmed her status as the VRC Oaks favourite with a comprehensive victory in the traditional lead-up, the Wakeful Stakes at Flemington.
Trained by Anthony Freedman for Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley organisation, Zydeco went into the Group Two Wakeful (2000m) as the $3.10 favourite on the back of her third to Commanding Jewel in last month’s Thousand Guineas.
Kerrin McEvoy brought the Zabeel filly wide in the run home down the long straight and she stretched out and ran through the line two lengths ahead of outsider Maraatib ($101) with Transonic ($17) another short head third.
Second favourite Dear Demi ($3.30) was another length fourth after being caught up in traffic as she was when second in the Thousand Guineas, prompting an animated post-race discussion between trained Clarry Conners and jockey Jim Cassidy.
There was only praise from Freedman for McEvoy’s ride and for the filly who has progressed from a Bendigo maiden in September to Group One company.
“She is a lovely filly and I told Kerrin not to be afraid to go wide because you’ve got a horse with natural stamina,” Freedman said.
“She has come on so well. She keeps improving and it’s great to train a winner for Darley.”
Zydeco is one of a couple of dozen Darley horses in Freedman’s care with the majority of the sheikh’s horses trained by Peter Snowden.
While the Darley camp celebrated, Conners was once again left lamenting what might have been with Dear Demi who was also Group One placed in the Flight Stakes and the Champagne Stakes as a two-year-old.
“It was a bad ride,” Conners said.
“Even Jimmy said it was a bad ride.”
Zydeco immediately firmed to $2.25 with the TAB for Thursday’s Oaks (2500m) with Dear Demi the second elect at $4.