Voak Opts for Queen Shenandoah

Chris Voak, who is driving in superb form, has given punters a strong lead by choosing to handle Queen Shenandoah in preference to stablemate Just Makemine Diamonds in the Simmonds Steel Fencing And Gates Pace over 2130m at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

Voak drove hot favourite Just Makemine Diamonds to an impressive all-the-way victory over Braeview Bondi at a 1.57.9 rate over 2536m last Friday night and later in the program he was in the sulky behind Queen Shenandoah, a 50/1 outsider from barrier eight in a 2130m event in which she enjoyed an ideal passage, one-out and one-back, before finishing solidly to be a one-length second to the pacemaker Ocean Ridge, who rated 1.57.1.

Queen Shenandoah and Just Makemine Diamonds (to be driven by Chris Lewis) are five-year-olds by American sire Somebeachsomewhere and are trained by Ross Olivieri. They are on trial for the $125,000 Westral Mares Classic on Friday of next week.

Queen Shenandoah will start from the inside of the back line and Just Makemine Diamonds is drawn at barrier two on the back line. They should fight out the finish with smart last-start winners Radiant Amber and Tajie Baby, who will have many admirers from favourable front-line barriers.

Olivieri is pleased with the progress of Just Makemine Diamonds and Queen Shenandoah, declaring: “There’s nothing between them at the moment.” Voak shares the trainer’s admiration for the stablemates, saying: “I like both mares and it is hard to split them.

“Queen Shenandoah is classy and is still on the way up. From barrier ten she will sit and sprint home. She’s a fast mare and can definitely win; she just needs luck.”  

Both the New Zealand-bred Queen Shenandoah and the Victorian-bred Just Makemine Diamonds are well travelled. Queen Shenandoah has won once in New Zealand, four times in Victoria and three times in South Australia, while Just Makemine Diamonds has been placed in New Zealand and New South Wales and has won twice in Victoria, six times in South Australia and once in WA.

Radiant Amber, to be driven by Aiden de Campo for Baskerville trainer Ryan Bell, is handily drawn at barrier two on the front line and is racing keenly, with five wins on country tracks from her past nine starts. Tajie Baby, trained by Sue Wiscombe and to be driven by Lindsay Harper, is a speedy beginner and is well suited from the No. 3 barrier. She led from barrier three and won by a head from Flying Mister Ideal over 2536m at Gloucester Park on Tuesday of last week.

Voak is also enthusiastic about the prospects of the Annie Belton-trained Gotta Go Gabbana in the Simmonds Steel Decorative Screens Pace over 2130m in which the six-year-old mare will start from the inside of the back line, immediately behind the likely pacemaker Bettor Reward.

“She will improve heaps on her second-up fourth behind Our Alfie Romeo, Arma Indie and Dracarys last week,” Voak said. “Ten is the worst draw for her; she’s hard work, she pulls and is not easy to drive. But she’ll go good.”

Last week from the outside barrier (No. 9) Gotta Go Gabbana settled down in 11th position before sustaining a strong three-wide burst.

Bettor Reward, to be driven by Chris Lewis for Serpentine trainer Clint Hall, should prove hard to beat from the No. 1 barrier. He has started from barrier one at Gloucester Park six times for three all-the-way wins, a third, a fourth and a seventh.