Only one filly poses any threat to current 2017-18 New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Series leader Dijon Bleu (Burgundy). That filly is Contessa Vanessa (Bullbars) who will line up in tomorrow's ninth leg of the series, the $70,000 Gr3 Sunline Vase (2100m) at Ellerslie. Dijon Bleu has amassed a formidable tally of 30 points, which all but guarantees her the prestigious Filly of the Year title. However, with injury prematurely ending Dijon Bleu's season, a window of opportunity presents for second-placed Contessa Vanessa. If the latter can win both the Sunline Vase (6 points to the winner) and the final leg of the series, the $400,000 Gr1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on 17 March (12 points), Contessa Vanessa will finish with a winning score of 31.5 points. Other fillies in Saturday's field with Filly of the Year Series points to their name are Kapoor (Reliable Man) with 4, Blanco Belle (Cape Blanco) with 3, Gris Dame (Reliable Man) with 2, and Marcellina (Savabeel) with 2. Click here to view commentary on each Sunline Vase runner.
Blanco Belle will take another step towards the Gr1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham on 17 March when she makes an appearance at her home meeting on Saturday, reports NZ Racing Desk. The daughter of Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco has shown plenty of promise in her four starts to date, with placings in the Gr3 Desert Gold Stakes & Listed O'Leary's Fillies Stakes (1200m) behind top filly Dijon Bleu. "She's going to run in the fillies' race here over 1800 metres. It's nice and handy for us," said New Plymouth part-owner and trainer Susan Rainford, referring to the Listed Oaks Prelude. "She's going along well and we're just trying to get her to relax a bit better. She gives her track rider a hard time, but we'll sort her out." Blanco Belle certainly possesses the requisite pedigree to be a classic contender. From the Montjeu mare Mondue, she descends from the successful Belle Fox (NZ) family that includes Gr1 Coolmore Classic winner Plucky Belle, Gr1 VRC Sires' Produce Stakes & Gr1 WATC Australian Derby winner Wonder Dancer, Gr1 South Australian Oaks winner Casey Belle, Gr2 Queensland Guineas winner Winning Belle, while her fourth dam was star staying filly and Champion NZ 3YO Star Belle. Blanco Belle is currently rated an $18 chance for the NZ Oaks.
At Trentham in New Zealand, Cambridge Stud's beautifully bred Gr3-winning stallion Burgundy (Redoute's Choice-Grand Echezeaux, by Zabeel) added a Group race success when classy 3YO New Zealand-bred filly Dijon Bleu (Burgundy-Pristino, by More Than Ready) raced clear over the concluding stages to post a hollow win in the $70,000 Gr3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) for 3YO fillies, defeating Blanco Belle & Milseain. Dijon Bleu, who was purchased by her trainer Lisa Latta for $26,000 at the 2016 NZB Select Yearling Sale, improved her record to 5 wins (including the Gr3 Hawke's Bay Breeders Gold Trail Stakes, Listed Soliloquy Stakes & Listed O'Leary's Fillies Stakes) and 3 placings (including the Gr1 NZ 1000 Guineas) from 10 starts for NZ$245,200 in earnings. Trainer Lisa Latta said Dijon Bleu was unlikely run in Saturday's Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) despite being eligible. "Looking at the weather forecast I don't want to run her on a hard track," Latta told NZ Racing Desk. "We'll more than likely look at the Sir Tristram Classic [Gr2] next."
At Wanganui in New Zealand, Cambridge Stud's beautifully bred Gr3-winning stallion Burgundy (Redoute's Choice-Grand Echezeaux, by Zabeel) added a black-type success when 3YO brown filly Dijon Bleu (Burgundy-Pristino, by More Than Ready) opened her stakes account when romping to an emphatic win in the $50,000 Listed O'Leary's Fillies Stakes (1200m) for 3YO fillies, defeating Blanco Belle & Style By Design. Dijon Bleu, who was purchased by her trainer Lisa Latta for $26,000 at the 2016 NZB Select Yearling Sale, improved her record to 2 wins and 1 placing from 5 starts for NZ$57,700 in earnings. Latta nominated the Gr1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas as a possible target for Dijon Bleu. "There's a lot of options for her and the key will be whether she can get 1400m and further and then if we head south early," Latta told NZ Racing Desk.
Following a runaway win on debut at Hawera in August, New Zealand filly Blanco Belle is set to face her first acid test when she lines up in the Listed The O'Leary's Fillies' Stakes at Wanganui on Saturday, reports theinformant.co.nz. Trainer and part-owner Susan Rainford purchased the daughter of Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco for a bargain NZ$3,000 from the Cambridge Stud draft at the 2015 New Zealand Bloodstock National Weanling, Broodmare and Mixed Sale with staying events in mind. "She's a staying filly and this is her first preparation," Rainford commented. "She was difficult to break in – she's tough and strong for her age, even though she doesn't actually turn three until October." Rainford is also bullish when it comes to potentially exploring grander plans with the filly, "There's not a lot around for staying fillies in New Zealand, so we might give her a spell after this. There's a nice race in Australia – the VRC Oaks. That's ambitious, but you never know." Interestingly, from a pedigree angle, Blanco Belle descends from Gr1 VRC Sires' Produce Stakes and Gr1 WATC Australian Derby winner Wonder Dancer, while her fourth dam was star staying filly and NZ Champion 3YO Star Belle.