Devise lapping up the waves before Oaks

Devise finishing third behind Bonneval and Savvy Dreams (obscured) in the Lowland Stakes at Hastings.

Devise finishing third behind Bonneval and Savvy Dreams (obscured inner) in the Lowland Stakes at Hastings.

Ahead of one of the most important weeks of the year, Shaune Ritchie is heading to the beach.

But there’s good reason – and the last thing on the Cambridge trainer’s mind is holidaying.

A key factor in his approach is needing to find an edge for his Gr.1 Wellfield New Zealand Oaks (2400m) contender Devise against the reigning favourite Bonneval.

“We need to find a length on Bonneval and I just felt she was showing me she’d lost some of her speed,” said Ritchie. “She’s become very dour in her last few starts and we need to get some speed back.

“These horses get down to the beach and they become different horses. They get to take the pressure off their legs, they relax and stretch out better. You’ve just got to see it to see how much good it does. They just seem to lift.”

Ritchie followed the same strategy for his previous New Zealand Oaks winners Keep The Peace and Artistic and said while the physical spin-offs were immense, the time at the beach sparked the horses mentally as well and that was borne out in changes in their temperament.

“We’ve had Oaks horses before and we know how taxing the preparation can be on a three-year-old filly, but Devise is thriving and she’s still carrying good condition,” said Ritchie.

“She’ll be the filly parading before the race with a bit of excess midriff, the one with that bit of condition around the barrel area.

“She’s been remarkably consistent right through and she’s got that tactical speed, which means we’ll have a start on Bonneval anyway. Bonneval is obviously the horse to beat and she’s had our measure in the last couple but we’re hopeful we can turn that around this weekend.”

Ritchie noted that jockey Jason Waddell’s bad luck had coincided with his own good fortune in the Oaks and, though he felt for the Cambridge rider, he hoped the trend might continue on Saturday.

Waddell was suspended and missed his regular ride on Keep The Peace when she won with Opie Bosson aboard in 2010, then went down a nose on Zurella when she bowed to stablemate Artistic in 2012.

A suspension at Avondale last week cost Waddell the Oaks ride on Devise, with Jonathan Riddell picking up the mount.

– NZ Racing Desk