Cups King Bart Cummings will be chasing his fifth Schweppes Oaks (2000m) at Morphettville on Saturday when he saddles up Empress Rock in the Group 1 $400,000 classic for three year old fillies.
Jockey Steven Arnold expects Empress Rock to turn the tables on the Anthony Freedman trained Crucial after finishing fifth to the Nadeem filly in the Group 3 $115,000 Schweppervescence Stakes (1800m) at Morphettville on April 14.
Arnold said that he was always on the back foot from the start when his filly was slow away in the Oaks traditional lead up race and was forced to work hard in the early stages to get to the front and was left a sitting shot in the straight.
“I thought it was a good run, she drew a wide gate and she did a bit of work through the first furlong,” Arnold said.
“She just didn’t begin cleanly, she was swallowed up in the last furlong but the weight conditions will suit her better.”
All the fillies in the Oaks will be carrying equal weights (56kg) as opposed to the Schweppervescence Stakes which was under set weights and penalties with Empress Rock having to carry 58.5kg while Crucial had a 4kg advantage.
Arnold is hoping to get cover and a better run from a more favourable barrier and is confident the filly will run out a strong 2000m.
“If we can get a softer run in behind them then we will,” Arnold said.
“She led at Moonee Valley and won by three or four lengths so there was no problem with leading but from the wide gate we either had to sit four wide or press on to the front.”
“It’s not a bad draw, the closer to the fence the better. It’s a bit of an ordinary start the 2000m at Morphettville so you don’t want to draw too wide. I still envisage her being in the first half of the field.”
Cummings hasn’t won the race since Tristalove scored in 1994 with Simon Marshall aboard making it successive wins for the master trainer after Our Tristalight took out the classic the year before with Stephen King on top.
His other Oaks’ winners were Stapleton Lass (Len Maud) in 1989 and Royal Regatta (John Letts) in 1983.
Empress Rock has been installed the $3.60 favourite on the basis of back to back wins in Melbourne before her last start fifth at Morphettville.
At her third run from a spell she was too strong for Assertive Eagle in the Group 2 $300,000 TAB Sportsbet Kewney Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on March 10 then led all the way for an easy win in the Group 2 $200,000 Sportingbet Fillies Classic (1600m) at Moonee Valley on March 23.
The Mick Kent trained filly Our Miss Jones is on the second line of betting at $7 after finishing third at her last two starts at Moonee Valley while Crucial is sharing the third line of betting with the Leon Corstens trained Rahveel at $8.