Hope for Sweet Belle in Southland Oaks

Hope for Sweet Belle in Southland Oaks

Bruce Stewart

23rd April 2020

Rakaia trainer Gerard O’Reilly knew he was going to be hard pressed to qualify Sweet Belle for next month’s Group Three Southland Oaks but her win today elevated her to thirteenth on the Oaks leader board and depending on nominations, it may be enough to allow her a start in the $40,000 feature.

“We’ve left it a bit late to target the Southland Oaks. She was up in the ratings so it’s made it a bit harder,” he said.

In today’s race O’Reilly got a lovely trip behind pacemaker Benio Ben. At the 450 metre mark when Benio Ben started to get tired O’Reilly moved the three year old off his back and quickly went to the lead, putting a length on Miss Auckland who was three lengths in front of the chasing bunch. Sweet Belle held on to beat the late charging Belmont Diva by two lengths with Mucho Macho Man a neck back in third.

A lap to run and Sweet Belle gets the trail behind Benio Ben

The finish from a distance

The finish close up

Back to the birdcage

O’Reilly said the Sweet Lou filly knocked off at the end of her race today.

“Being a nice race horse she’s just got into the habit of only doing what she has to.”

Sweet Belle was broken in by Gerard’s brother Kerry and the Rakaia trainer got her as a yearling. She won a two year old race before she was turned out.

“She wasn’t paid up for anything (stake races) so we gave her a wee spell.”

Today was her fourth start in the province. She disappointed at her last start, running fifth at Ascot Park.

“I think she may have been going through a growing spurt. We put the pull down blinds on her today. She hit the front the other day and didn’t want to go on. The calibre of the field today probably helped.”

Sweet Belle is owned by Richard and Stewart Ashworth, Brian McGirr and Martin ‘Moose’ Hickman.

“Three of the owners are from Methven – rugby racing and beer people. They came down a couple of weeks ago and made a mess of themselves the night before. Richard and Stewart have had horses with me but it’s the first time for Brian and Martin.”

O’Reilly says at this stage he doesn’t intend to push on to the end of season Harness Jewels.

“Next year she’ll get stronger and be a nice intermediate grade horse. She’s thriving down here and Jeremy (Douglas) and Britney (Willis) are doing a great job with her. ”

The top fifteen qualifiers for the Southland Oaks are: Tac Mac, Sweet Lizzie, Bettastar, Better’s Tart, Leer, Better Talk Art, Braeview Kelly, Debutant Party, Lifes A Beach, Wattlebank Star (with a question mark), Endless Dreams, Don’t Lie To Me, Sweet Belle, Belmont Diva and With Grace.