By Glenn Davis
Progressive filly Belle Roc can cap a big week for veteran trainer Brian Smith if she wins the Group 2 The Roses at Doomben on Saturday.
Belle Roc will be aiming to become the first Queensland trained filly to claim the 2000-metre feature, the traditional lead-up to the Group 1 Queensland Oaks on June 1, since Bryan Guy won the race with Lasoron in 2007.
Memories of the great Balmerino were revived this week when the Smith-trained stayer was announced as an inductee into Australian Racing’s Hall Of Fame alongside former champion Queenslander Vo Rogue.
Balmerino won the Brisbane Cup when it was a Group 1 race over 3200 metres in 1976 before a successful career on the world stage which included victories at Hollywood Park in America and the Goodwood Select Stakes in England.
His most notable overseas performance was when he finished second to Alleged in the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
Smith has laid a perfect foundation for Belle Roc’s Queensland Oaks campaign, gradually stepping the filly up in distance in her five starts this campaign.
Belle Roc confirmed Smith’s plans to target the Queensland Oaks with her last start third to Gem Song in the Group 3 Gunsynd Classic (1600m) at Eagle Farm on April 27.
“She went well last start against Gem Song who is a realistic chance in the Doomben Cup,” Smith said.
Belle Roc is part-owned by Smith’s son Jonathon who will make the trip from New Zealand along with Smith's grand-daughter Lily, 14.
“Belle Rock is the first horse Jonathon has ever raced,” Smith said.
“He lives in New Zealand but he and Lily are coming over to attend the Hall Of Fame night and to watch the race.
“The filly is named after Balmerino and Jonathon’s New Zealand business Shuttle Roc.
“The Roses is a hard race and one of the best fields I’ve seen.
“My only disappointment is that the Oaks is at Doomben and not Eagle Farm where she could get out early and have a crack at them.”
While Smith made his name on the international stage with Balmerino, he earned a reputation as a great trainer of stayers and fondly remembers two of his former big-name gallopers, Kessem and Circles Of Gold.
Kessem, by Balmerino, won the 1990 Coogny Handicap and travelled to Hong Kong that year to take out the Invitation Cup.
Circlea Of Gold won the 1995 Australian Oaks and the Coogny Handicap the following year but is more famous as the dam of multiple Group 1 winners Elvstroem and Haradasun.
Racing Queensland webnews May 16