New Zealand jockey Danielle Johnson believes the Flemington track in Melbourne will suit ATC Oaks winner Sofia Rosa who she travels over to ride in Saturday’s Makybe Diva Stakes.
Johnson has partnered Stephen Marsh’s Kiwi mare for four of her 11 career starts to date, all back home, including two Group victories and the Group 1 NZ Oaks (2400m) in March.
Sofia Rosa and Johnson crossed the line first in a late dive in the NZ Oaks, but lost the race on protest to Fanatic.
After copping a suspension for the NZ Oaks ride, Johnson missed the chance to travel to Sydney in the autumn for Sofia Rosa’s down under debut.
The then three-year-old filly lined-up in the Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m) at Royal Randwick and enjoyed a half-length victory over Ambience (2nd) and Believe (3rd) with Hugh Bowman aboard.
The daughter of Makfi has raced just once since when tested in Melbourne first-up a fortnight ago at Caulfield Racecourse.
Damien Oliver had the ride on Sofia Rosa in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m), but the mare only managed to finish seven and a half-lengths away 10th behind the Darren Weir-trained winner Black Heart Bart.
She will face a similar field of rivals second-up this weekend when heading to Flemington for the weight-for-age $500,000 Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
Makybe Diva Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au is firmly led by Weir’s Memsie Stakes champ Black Heart Bart ($2.25) who Oliver, a four-time winner of the race, jumps aboard.
Sofia Rosa is rated a $26 outsider to become just the second mare since 1996 to win the mile classic at Flemington.
In place of Oliver, Michael Walker was originally set to ride Marsh’s Makybe Diva Stakes hope this weekend.
His subsequent suspension however has paved the way for Johnson to reunite with the mare, and she is looking forward to getting back in the saddle of a horse she’s never not been first-past-the-post aboard.
“I suppose they have gone back to someone that knows her and see how she goes for me,” she told Racenet.
“She’s just got a mind of her own really.
“She’s a typical mare really. She just wants to get on with the job and she’s very busy. She’s not bad but she’s just fidgety.
“In the race, she’s fine. It’s more before the race and before you get around to the start but other than that, she’s pretty good.”
While yet to race at the track, Johnson believes Flemington will suit Sofia Rosa who will only improve on whatever she does this weekend once stretched out over 2000m and further later in the spring.
“I think that Flemington track is really going to suit her,” she said.
“I know she’s drawn wide [in barrier 13 of 13] but we’ll just deal with that and she’ll have a nice long straight.
“I think she’ll definitely be hitting the line really well. She’ll be progressing forward once she gets to 2000 metres.”
Two of the past five Makybe Diva Stakes winners jumped from double-digit draws with Littorio (14 of 14 in 2011) and Fawkner (11 of 14 in 2015).
Barrier 13 meanwhile last produced a winner with Native Jazz (2001).
Sofia Rosa is still in the mix for an October 15 run in the $3 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) over the mile and a half and pays $26 in futures betting at Ladbrokes.com.au.