Baker-Forsman fillies thorn in Ritchie’s side

Devise (nearest camera) just going down to Nicoletta in the Desert Gold Stakes at Trentham.

Devise (nearest camera) just going down to Nicoletta in the Desert Gold Stakes at Trentham with Bonneval third.

Shaune Ritchie thought he would be sidestepping the full force of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman’s squad of three-year-old fillies at Hastings on Thursday, but not quite.

The Cambridge trainer opted to target the Gr.3 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes instead of the Gr.3 McKee Family Sunline Vase at Ellerslie on Saturday for his filly Devise, though nominating for both events.

“I wanted to avoid running into all Murray’s good fillies before the Oaks,” Ritchie said. “I knew I couldn’t miss them all, but I figured a couple of them might go to Ellerslie for the Sunline.”

As it has unfolded Baker and Forsman will just run Group Three winner and VRC Oaks place-getter Eleonora in the Sunline Vase and Devise will have to again clash with Eleonora’s stablemates Bonneval and Nicoletta in the Lowland Stakes.

Baker and Forsman had also nominated Bonneval for the Ellerslie feature, but have opted to travel south.

Devise has yet to meet Eleonora, but she has clashed with Bonneval and Nicoletta in each of her last two starts.

She split the stablemates when beaten a short head by Nicoletta in the Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham on January 28, then chased the pair home when third to Bonneval in the Gr.2 Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa.

“She didn’t sprint like she normally does in the Sir Tristram,” Ritchie said. “She’s done well since and it does suit me better to run her down at Hastings.

“The Oaks is the one we really want and her record at Wellington is strong.”

Devise has had two starts at Trentham for a win over 1600 and a second to Nicoletta in the Gr.3 Desert Gold Stakes.

“Her half-sister, Zurella, just missed winning the Oaks so it would be lovely to win it with her for The Oaks Stud,” Ritchie added.

Ritchie and The Oaks Stud did land the quinella in the 2012 NZ Oaks as Zurella was beaten by her stablemate Artistic, who was also owned by the Oaks Stud.

Ritchie is chasing his third NZ Oaks win, having also won the feature in 2010 with Keep The Peace.

Devise has also tasted success at Hastings, having won her maiden on the track in her second start last November. She hasn’t been further back than fourth since then in four runs.

Devise will again by ridden by Jason Waddell, while Matt Cameron and Michael Coleman will also be sticking to their regular respective mounts, Bonneval and Nicoletta.