Royal Counsel wins Southland Oaks
Royal Counsel set a Southland mobile 2200 metre record for a 3-year-old pacing filly of 2:39.6 when she grabbed Raksdeal in the last stride of the $45,000 Southland Oaks at Ascot Park yesterday.
Trained at Wyndham by Gordon and Colin Lee, Royal Counsel unwound a dour late run to better Raksdeal's Southland record of 2:41 at Ascot Park eight days earlier. Royal Counsel was .5sec outside Willow's national mark of 2:39.1.
Willow, according to driver Natalie Rasmussen, was ''just okay but that's all'' yesterday and, by her high standards, was not quite as sharp as usual but would hopefully freshen up for the Oaks, Nevele R Series and Jewels.
Clark Barron, trainer-driver of gutsy runner-up Raksdeal, knew his gallant filly had been pipped on the post after doing extra work from her draw to lead into line.
Just when Raksdeal was being acclaimed the winner, Royal Counsel sustained a dour run to nail her, Gordon Lee's victory flourish with the whip telling it all.
''Her campaign is only starting,'' Barron said of Raksdeal who is poised to tackle the Oaks, Nevele R and Jewels.
''I knew Royal Counsel would be one of the hardest to beat as she was phenomenal when third here eight days ago when three wide for most of the last lap. I knew we would have to do extra work from our draw, but that's racing.''
The Lee brothers were following in the footsteps of their late father ''Hori'' who trained Scapa Chip to win an earlier Oaks edition, driven by Colin.
''She just refused to give in,'' Gordon Lee said of Royal Counsel, a strong stayer who excited him with her lead up third.
''The exciting thing about that run was that I knew she had improvement in her and that is how it all worked out.''
Lee said his filly had a ''high cruising speed'' but might not be quite as sharp as Scapa Chip at the same stage of her career. He made no secret that yesterday's win was a lifetime highlight and it was ''not entirely unexpected'' after her remarkable display eight days earlier.