Quality filly Royal Star rocketed into WA Oaks favouritism with a scintillating win in today’s Listed Natasha Stakes (2200m) at Ascot.
In a surprise move, the heavily backed Royal Star ($2.90-$2.20 favourite) was sent forward by champion jockey William Pike to take the lead in the early stages.
But it proved a masterstroke, with Royal Star shooting clear of her rivals in the straight en route to a two-length win over Vain Stryker ($81) and stablemate Very Tempting ($5).
Royal Star’s tilt at the Oaks (2400m) suffered a setback when she was scratched at the barriers at Ascot last month, prompting stewards to order her to trial twice.
She suffered the first defeat of her career when sixth in the Ascot 1000 Guineas (1800m) but bounced back to her best today.
Owner Bob Peters didn’t expect Royal Star to lead but Pike said she started too brilliantly.
“William had to make a decision – they were keeping him out and not letting him in so he had to go forward,” Peters said.
“I’ve said all along she’s the best filly in the race with the worst preparation, so she must be very good to do what she did today.”
The TAB slashed Royal Star’s quote for the Oaks to $1.60.
Pike booted home a treble courtesy of Royal Star, her close relation Galaxy Star and Kiss Bang Love, who scored an upset win in the Group 3 Gimcrack Stakes (1100m).
Kiss Bang Love ($9) stormed home from seventh on the turn to score by 1 ¼ lengths, giving former top apprentice jockey Russell Stewart his biggest win as a trainer.
Lucy Mae ($14) was second and Seannie, the raging $1.50 favourite, was set too big a task when running on from last to finish third.
Kiss Bang Love’s first victory from five starts gave Stewart a big thrill.
“It’s pretty huge in the context of things,” Stewart said.
“I’ve only got a small stable and a filly like this comes along not very often.
“I picked her out as a weanling. I saw her in the paddock and was sitting on the back of a ute and thought ‘she’ll do me’.”
Kiss Bang Love firmed to $6 second favouritism for the Group 2 Karrakatta Plate (1200m) in a fortnight. Seannie heads the market at $3.
The Perth Stakes (1100m), the traditional lead-up to the Karrakatta for colts and geldings, provided a bigger upset with Wacked Out scoring at $48.40 on tote.
Sent straight to the front by jockey Brad Parnham, Wacked Out kicked clear in the straight and held on late to beat Riasc ($4) by three-quarters of a length.
Reykjavik ($7.50) was third and Debellatio, the $2.90 favourite, ran a brave fifth after sitting four and five-deep throughout the race.
Wacked Out had excuses at his only other start when he blundered on jumping and ran last of nine in the Supremacy Stakes (1000m) on debut.
Parnham’s trainer father, Neville, backed the close relation to Barakey and Magnifisio at big odds today and labelled him a promising horse.
“His trial form was excellent and his work had been excellent leading into the race,” Neville Parnham said.
“But his first-up run unfortunately he stumbled badly out of the gates and Brad was pretty lucky to stay in the saddle.
“Today he bounced the gates really well. He showed his acceleration and turn of foot that he’s got and let down really well.
“Whether or not he can do that in the Karrakatta Plate’s another question, but that will be his next stop.”