Gamble pays off with Oak Park

Taking on black type as opposed to a lesser task proved a masterstroke with the Cambridge filly Oak Park at Rotorua today.

Trainer Murray Baker entered Oak Park for both the $20,000 Marks Ewen & Associates 3YO and the Listed $50,000 Windsor Park Stud Rotorua Stakes and until close to raceday it looked likely the daughter of More Than Ready would be lining up in the three-year-old event.

Oak Park needed two scratchings to get a crack at the fillies and mares feature and thanks to a couple of withdrawals she sneaked into the field.

“With a filly like her you want to try and get some black type,” said Baker’s foreman, Andrew Forsman. “The Rotorua Stakes was always the main mission, but we didn’t think she’d get a start. We didn’t know whether she was really up to it, but she deserved a chance to prove it.”

Oak Park was ridden by Lisa Cropp and she certainly rose to the occasion. She went into the race with a record of three wins and four placings from 11 starts, including a leadup win in a three-year-old 1200-metre event at Ellerslie.

Taking on some well-experienced and successful female gallopers, Oak Park was given every chance in the trail by Lisa Cropp and she finished solidly to score by a half head from the fast-finishing Zennista.

The ultra-game Fleur de Lune tried her heart out and did extremely well to finish third, a short head further back, on ground that was far fro,m suitable for her. “She didn’t handle the sticky track at all and on the home turn I thought she was going to drop out,” said rider Jason Jago. “She tries so hard.”

Oak Park is raced by Queenslander Michael Collins and having now earned black print her immediate programme will be revisited. “I think she was going to go out for a spell,” said Forsman.