WIMMERA Oaks hopefuls May’s Dream and Melaleuca will contest Saturday's Group 2 Wakeful Stakes at Flemington.
The 2000-metre event is the traditional lead-up to Thursday’s $1-million Group 1 classic for three-year-old fillies.
Horsham-owned May’s Dream was installed as early favourite for the Oaks and was listed as $2.30-favourite for the Wakeful on Thursday.
Trainer Darren Weir claimed the favouritism was neither here nor there.
“It doesn’t bother me either way – we know she can gallop,” he said.
“I think she’ll run really well. Obviously she needs to run well on Saturday to run onto the Oaks.”
May’s Dream – owned by Horsham’s Worrall Dunn, his family, and a syndicate from the White Hart Hotel – finished a gallant second to Australia’s top three-year-old filly Guelph in the 1600-metre Thousand Guineas on October 16.
Weir said he expected the increase in distance to work in May’s Dream’s favour.
The daughter of New Approach has strong-staying bloodlines, with her mother She’s Archie finishing second to Makybe Diva in the 2003 Melbourne Cup.
May’s Dream will be piloted by Nick Hall on Saturday. She has drawn barrier nine for the $300,000 race, which Weir said was ideal.
“She’ll drift back, she needs to be ridden a bit quietly,” he said.
Stawell’s Terry O’Sullivan, who trains in partnership with daughter Karina, is not concerned by Melaleuca’s wide draw.
The Stratum filly has drawn gate 11 from a field of 12 contenders.
“She’s a horse that gets a bit back anyway,” O’Sullivan said.
“We’ll ride her a bit conservatively.”
Reigning Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Brett Prebble, a former apprentice to O’Sullivan, will take the ride.
“Saturday will be a race that decides her future,” O’Sullivan said.
“At this stage our plan is to run her in the Oaks.”
The pair will be up against a strong field of staying fillies, with most of the top threats hailing from Sydney.
Many of Saturday's runners met in the Listed $120,000-Ethereal Stakes on Caulfield Cup day.
David Vandyke-trained Arabian Gold scored a tough win over the 2000-metre trip, defeating a game Solicit by half a length.
Refer finished one-and-a-quarter lengths away third, with Melalecua a close-up fourth.
O’Sullivan was happy with his charge’s performance, with Melaleuca running the fastest final 600 metres of the race.
On Thursday, the TAB had Melaleuca priced at $15 to win the Wakeful Stakes, with Arabian Gold, Solicit and Randwick-based Kirramosa all on the second line of betting at $8.
May’s Dream is well weighted to win the event.
Despite having the highest rating she is on the minimum weight at 54 kilograms and gets a kilo advantage from Arabian Gold and 2.5kg from the top weight, John O’Shea’s Gypsy Diamond.
Gypsy Diamond, $13, will also be one to watch after she claimed victory in Friday night’s Group 2 Fillies Classic at Moonee Valley over 1600 metres.
Saturday marks the first day of the four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington.
Derby Day is known as the day for racing purists, with all races at group level, including four Group 1s.
The Wakeful Stakes is the second race on the nine-race card and will be run at noon.
The O’Sullivans enjoyed a win during Wednesday’s Bendigo Cup meeting, with Tykook saluting in the $25,000 Phil Palma’s Bendigo Ford BM70 Handicap over 1100 metres.
The race was the five-year-old mare’s second back from a spell.
Tykook has been nominated for the $200,000 G.H. Mumm Stakes at Flemington on Oaks Day.