The West

Class filly Balmont Girl made strong claim on the WA Oaks and WATC Derby double when jockey Shaun O'Donnell rode her to brilliant victory in today's $100,000 Natasha Stakes (2200m at Ascot.

O'Donnell said the Paula Wagg-trained Balmont Girl would be at her best over a longer distance in the $250,000 WA Oaks (2400m) on March 29 and the $400,000 WATC Derby (2400m) on April 12.

Balmont Girl ($5.50) was settled near last after jumping from barrier 16 in the Natasha Stakes. O'Donnell took her forward from 12th to seventh near the home turn and she stormed clear to score by 4 1/4 lengths.

Real Amber ($26) ran on from fifth to finish second and Real Love ($8) was a neck away in third place, after racing midfield.

The $3 favourite Real Charm, who was 12th near the home turn, finished seventh.

"Balmont Girl has a big chance in the Oaks and Derby," O'Donnell said. "I think she's an amazing filly. She doesn't pull and then takes off when asked for an effort. A step up to 2400 metres will not trouble her."

It has been a big week for O'Donnell, who won Thursday's $110,000 Bunbury Cup (2200m) on Classique Ivory.

Wagg, who trained Kim Angel to win the 1998 WATC Derby, was ecstatic after the Natasha Stakes.

"I can't believe she won by so far," Wagg said. "She's a great filly."

Top jockey William Pike rode skilfully on Derby hope Respondent to win today's $100,000 Schweppes J C Roberts Stakes (1800m).

Respondent ($11) charged through on the inside from seventh at the home turn and beat Ihtsahymn ($2 favourite) by a head.

Itsahymn had looked the winner after moving from eighth position to take the lead in the home straight.

Black Heart Bart ($8.50m) ran on from ninth to finish a further length back in third place.

Grant Williams trains Respondent for owners Bob and Sandra Peters.

"All the way in the straight, I thought Respondent would be held up," Bob Peters said. "Somehow, William got him through."

Respondent also won from Ihtsahymn when they clashed over 1600m on March 1.

The West Australian

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