Not even the horror outside draw will stop driver John Dunn from approaching tonight's $125,000 New Zealand Oaks at Addington with the same confidence he has had in Venus Serena all season.
And Dunn warned punters not to be too smitten by Ideal Belle's unlucky second in last week's Nevele R Final, declaring his filly will be fitter and more tractible with the run under her belt.
TAB bookies priced Barry Purdon's filly a strong $2.80 second favourite after she drew well in four and the champion filly ($1.55) landed the dreaded nine alley.
But Dunn said while on paper it looks a formidable task, with plenty of gate speed inside him, he believes it could turn out to be a blessing, allowing him time to find a position, before making a mid-race move.
"Last week she lit herself up out of the gate and over-raced badly but she'd had only one workout leading into the race and was very fresh," Dunn said.
"She wouldn't want to be doing that over 2600 metres or she'll have trouble seeing it out, but I'm sure she won't.
"I'll just be coming out and crossing over and hopefully possie in before picking my time to go. I won't want to be giving them too much of a start."
Dunn said while Venus Serena had led up more often than not in her career, she had the ability to win from anywhere.
"She sat parked in the Sires Stakes heat at Forbury recently, won easily, and went great time on a wet track. She's trailed at Auckland.
"The beauty about her is she has this great will to win and the harder you drive her, the better she goes.
"She really is an amazing horse to drive. Going over the finishing line she always picks up the bit. I've never been all out on her at the line and felt 'that's her all done'. She keeps trucking for another furlong."
Best of all, Dunn says Venus Serena hates other horses going past her.
"She pins her ears back and just keeps going. Horses can get up to her but they find it hard to run past her.
"Libertybelle Midfrew looked like she was going to beat us at Auckland last December but she fought back and beat her a head.
"I know Ideal Belle went an enormous race last week (after breaking and losing ground on the turn) and swished up the lane but Venus saw her coming and dug in deeper."
Dunn said he was confident Venus Serena would have held Ideal Belle over a longer trip too.
"She's a bloody good filly and can really stay. She's been over a distance only once (in the Northern Oaks at Auckland) and smashed it. The further they went, the further she got away."
That start over 2700m in February, her only attempt at further than 2200m, saw Venus Serena win by seven and a half lengths in a New Zealand record time of 3:18.9, wiping Twist And Twirl's 3:21 mark from the record books.
"She's gone super in every big race she'd run in and the way she keeps on breaking New Zealand records is amazing. But it's not just the times she goes, it's the way she does it."
Dunn said punters needn't worry that last week's record run (when she beat champion filly Carabella's mark by 0.6sec) would have taken anything out of Venus Serena.
"She'll be better this week. She had three runs in three weeks at Auckland and, no matter how I drove her, she got better each week."
Dunn said trainer Geoff Dunn gave Venus Serena a couple of easy days after the Nevele R Final and she had bounced back and worked well this week.
A win tonight and successful season finale in the Harness Jewels at Cambridge in two weeks would take the filly's season tally to $463,304 and career bankroll to $729,086 from 15 wins.
Benchmark filly Carabella earned $575,424 at two and three, beaten only once in those 14 starts.
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