Justine Erkelens Eyes WA Oaks With Brilliant Friar Fox


Friar Fox scored a brilliant win in the Natasha Stakes (2200m) at Ascot on Saturday, confirming in no uncertain terms she is the horse to beat in next Saturday week’s Group 3 WA Oaks (2400m).

Such was the nature of Friar Fox’s victory, 2 ¾ lengths over here nearest rival, Modern Mews, Tabtouch has slashed her price from $6 to $3.80 favouritism for the three-year-old staying feature.

Friar Fox, handing trainer Justine Erkelens one of her most satisfying wins and ideally ridden by Shaun O’Donnell, travelled like a winner throughout and put paid to her rivals after bursting to the front with 150m remaining.

The daughter of ill-fated sire Blackfriars made up for running second when she looked a good thing beaten in the Listed Ascot 1000 Guineas at her previous start.

Friar Fox, a $14,000 purchase from the 2016 Perth Yearling sale, has now won four races and been placed on two occasions, boosting prize money to $144, 485.

“What a great run and I am rapt,” Erkelens said.

“We’re just taking every day as it comes.

“She is still learning and stepping up.

“I couldn’t be happier.

“We’ll see how she pulls up tomorrow (Sunday) and see if we can get there (WA Oaks).”

O’Donnell, who won his third Natasha Stakes, is confident Friar Fox can exert a similar influence in the WA Oaks.

“You don’t ride horses like this who can settle and when you want them to go they just go,” O’Donnell said.

“She is just smart and I’m very confident she can do the job.”

Meanwhile trainer Grant Williams won his third Listed Grandstand Cup (1500m) and first in combination with co-trainer and partner Alana Williams after Falcon Crest outpointed Red Ora in a thriller.

Falcon Crest, ridden by Chris Parnham and Red Ora, in the hands of Shaun McGruddy, went stride for stride in the straight, but it was the former, with a 2kg weight advantage, who thrust his nose out when it mattered most, getting up to win by a short half-head.

Falcon Crest, who claimed the second stakes victory of his 32-start career, turned the tables and exacted revenge after a fast closing third to Red Ora in the Listed Bunbury Stakes (1500m) 10 days ago.

“We will go onto the Listed Old Comrade Stakes (1600m) in two weeks,” Grant Williams said.

“We are here now and might as well have a go.

“I can’t see why not.”

Julio Santarelli