Balmont Girl and Ihtsahymn have set up a fantastic challenge for Saturday week’s $400,000 WATC Derby with their sensational wins in today’s WA Oaks and Melvista Stakes.
Ihtsahymn was the $2.80 clear-cut favourite on the TAB for the Group 2 Derby (2400m) prior to today’s Ascot gala card, with Balmont Girl the second best pick at $6.
Balmont Girl’s annihilation of the three-year-old fillies as a white hot $1.30 favourite to give trainer Paula Wagg her first win in the WA Oaks, will see the tote sharpen her price when betting re-opens tomorrow.
Ihtsahymn has reigned as the Derby favourite since the markets first opened last month, but his stranglehold on the classic now appears under threat.
In form jockey Shaun O’Donnell rode a gem of a ride, to settle the Natasha Stakes winner third last, with only Real Love and Real Charm trailing behind her.
O’Donnell kept Balmont Girl one off the fence before taking off at the 600m to street past the field in the straight and win comfortably by 1¼ lengths.
Only Real Love ($7.50) made any headway on Balmont's Girl closing the gap in the final 100m to finish second, with another 4 ¼ lengths back to stable-mate Real Charm ($16), finishing third.
Midnight Shimmer ($31) gave trainer Gran Williams the first three place-getters behind the winner.
Wagg’s champion filly Kim Angel, who won the Dayana Stakes, Belmont Oaks, Belmont Classic and WA St Leger, had finished a luckless fifth to Matriculate in the late 1990s. Kim Angel turned the tables on Matriculate to win the WATC Derby at their following clash.
“I’m really relieved its over,” Wagg said. “I’d been a little bit nervous.
“Nothing has gone wrong but being a hot favourite I didn’t want to let people down.
“She has appreciated the extra distance all along.
“She will definitely head into the Derby as long as she pulls up well.”
Ihtsahymn, who was backed into a $3.30 favourite, lumped topweight on 59kg and jumped from gate 15 before he broke-through for his first win this campaign in what was a thrilling climax to the 2200m Derby lead-up.
Steven Parnham had no issue settling Ihtsahymn near the tale of the field and timed his run to perfection, but Authentic Style ($16 into $12) refused to surrender with the pair locked in a dog-fight inside the final 100m.
Ihtsahymn lobbed his head in front right on the line to get the judge's nod by a half-head. It was a further half length back to the third placed Respondent ($4.20 into $3.80), who was caught three deep through-out and ran home stronger for a great Derby trial.
Black Heart Bart’s ($5.50) rider Shaun Meeres was placed into a dire predicament when the saddle slipped and he pulled his way to the front and run and head and head with the rank outsider Cesc, before both horses weakened in the straight.
The Fred Kersley-trained Ihtshymn has been the star of WA this season, winning the Group 2 WA Guineas, Kingston Town Classic and C B Cox Stakes at Ascot last spring.
“The fancied runners got bad luck early from good draws and from his awkward draw he got back and kept out of trouble without having to do much work.
“I thought Steven brought him into the race at the right time.
“The second horse was very brave and made him work hard for it.”