By Glenn Davis
Warwick Farm trainer Steve Englebrecht is hoping the stars have aligned for jockey Deanne Panya in her bid to become the first female jockey to win the Group 1 Queensland Oaks on Sydney filly Highway at Doomben on Saturday.
Englebrecht also is chasing his first Queensland Oaks win with Highway who produced a strong trial for the 2000-metre feature in the Group 2 The Roses at Doomben two weeks ago.
Panya has been Highway’s regular rider and partnered the daughter of High Chaparral when she finished third to the Chris Waller pair Youngstar and Another Dollar in The Roses.
Another female rider Tegan Harrison also is chasing a place in Queensland Oaks history aboard the Matt Kropp-trained outsider, Delaney’s Desire.
In latest UBET markets Highway is a $35 chance while Delaney’s Desire is the bookie’s hope at $151.
Englebrecht can’t fault Highway since she arrived in Brisbane for her winter campaign but has ruled out starting her in next month’s Group 1 Queensland Derby at Doomben.
“She’s thrived since she went to Brisbane and she’s doing better there than at home,” Englebrecht said.
“There’s some very good colts running in the Queensland Derby so she’ll probably come home after the Oaks and I might see if there’s a suitable BOBS race for her.”
Panya was one of Sydney’s leading apprentices last season despite her career being disrupted by injury and suspension and won last year’s $1 million Magic Millions Cup aboard Testashadow.
Her Magic Millions Cup triumph was only the third by an apprentice along with Chris Munce and Luke Tarrant to ride a winner in 30 years of Magic Millions carnivals.
Englebrecht won’t tie down Panya to any specific tactics in the Queensland Oaks.
“The pace in the race will determine where she’s placed in the run,” he said.
“Tactics will play a big part and I’ll leave all that to Deanne.
“There’s no use tying her down with instructions.”
Englebrecht believes Doomben has been playing fair during the winter but he would have preferred a bigger track for Highway who has won two of her 10 starts.
“She handled Doomben quite well last time and the track is no problem,” he said.
“But she likes a big track and I would have loved it if this race was back on Eagle Farm.
“With an ounce of luck she’ll be right in it and she couldn’t be any fitter.”
Racing Queensland webnews May 25