Crockett to take a throw at the stumps for Group 1 glory

The Cameron Crockett-trained Dances With Hooves will contest Saturday’s Group 1 Australian Oaks at Royal Randwick. Image: Racing Photography.

He’s the first to admit it’s taken him by surprise, but on Saturday, Cameron Crockett and his team will vie for Group 1 glory with Dances With Hooves. 

Contesting the $1 million Australian Oaks at Royal Randwick, the Real Steel filly will take on the three-year-olds over the 2400m staying trip. 

Champion hoop Craig Williams will take the ride, and while Dances With Hooves is a $126 chance against the likes of Orchestral (James McDonald, $1.60) and Zardozi (Tom Marquand, $4.80), Crockett said his filly had every opportunity to prove herself over the 12 furlongs. 

“Brian Rutter bred her and owns her mother and this filly with a couple of mates, and we’re looking at the residual value if she can snag a place or run a good fourth as it will look good for her pedigree,” Crockett told NSW Country and Picnic Racing. 

“They are only three-year-olds once, and not a heap of horses at that age can stay, and some of them are pretty immature, so we thought she is fit and racing well; it’s just whether she stays the trip.”

Dances With Hooves has won three times in five starts.

Second-up, she stormed home from the rear of the field with an eye-catching victory in the Country Boosted Maiden Handicap (1400m) at Dubbo on January 15.

Two starts ago, she showcased that same devastating finish when taking out a Class One Plate (1600m) at Tamworth on March 10.

Jumping up in class at Newcastle on April 3, the Scone-trained filly was gutsy over the 1850m, hanging on for a good win in Benchmark 64 company.

Despite boasting three good wins this preparation, Crockett admitted that he was surprised that Dances With Hooves had turned into a stayer.

“She’s been a funny horse to train,” he said. 

“I’ve never had a good stayer before; there’s not many of them, and when you train in the country, there’s less.

“She’s very sharp on the track, and I wouldn’t have pencilled her in as a stayer, but she got ran off her feet at her first start, then won over 1400m on ability. 
“We put her over 1400m again, and she ran okay, but after that, she relished the distance and won over 1600m and 1850m.

“Everyone that’s got off her has said she wants further than a mile, and after her win the other day, Ash (Morgan) said she outstayed them and further won’t hurt.”

It is a big jump from a Benchmark 64 Handicap to Group 1 company on Saturday, and Crockett said it was a throw at the stumps by her owners. 

“This did come up a bit quick, and we didn’t necessarily think we’d be targeting this race, instead maybe one in South Australia or Queensland,” Crockett said. 

“The guys paid the late nom for this race, and we didn’t think she would get a run, but then ten horses came up, and to be honest, she’s not the worst-performed in the field. 

“At the end of the day, there are not many of these races for three-year-old fillies, and you won’t know they can run 2400m until you try.

“She has only had five starts, and as long as she can stay, there is improvement with her.

“It’s only her first racing prep, and it will eventually come to an end, hopefully not tomorrow, but she is fit, and she seems to handle the racing well. Tomorrow, we’ll find out if she can run the distance.”

While connections will dream of a rich victory, Crockett is attempting to temper expectations ahead of some nice races later in the season. 

“I would just like to see her run a good race,” Crockett said. 

“If she did, it would encourage us to bring her back for another prep before she turns four.”

Crockett isn’t the only country NSW-based trainer chasing Australian Oaks glory on Saturday, with Daiki Chujo starting True Fairy (Noriyuki Masuda, 200/1).

The Ballina galloper is another Real Steel filly, having started six times for two wins at Lismore (1536m) in January and Grafton (1700m) in March.