Sherbet Lemon will be Apple Tree Stud’s first Classic contender when she lines up for the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom.
A 28-1 winner of this month’s Listed Novibet Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes at Lingfield, Sherbet Lemon vastly outran those odds to win by three-quarters of a length under Paul Mulrennan.
That performance bolstered connections’ confidence in targeting the Oaks on June 4, a contest for which the grey is a general 33-1 chance.
Former leading National Hunt jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton manages the Apple Tree racing and stud operation for owner Paul Dunkley, and reports Sherbet Lemon in fine form for her Classic tilt.
“She’s very well, and we’re really looking forward to next Friday,” he said.
“She’s done some work – she did a gallop on Friday and she’s absolutely fine.
“It’s just a case of keeping her ticking over for the big day.”
Hollie Doyle, stable jockey to trainer Archie Watson, rode Sherbet Lemon to her maiden success at Newcastle in February and is lined up to take the ride again after missing the filly’s last two runs because of commitments for her retained owner Imad Alsagar.
May has been unusually damp, but Thornton is not concerned by the prospect of testing conditions following the filly’s performances on Newcastle’s all-weather track, good ground at Wetherby and soft at Lingfield.
“She stays and she seems quite versatile,” he said.
“She won on the all-weather at Newcastle, and it was quick ground at Wetherby when she was fourth.
“She got no run at all, and I was actually very pleased with the way she ran that day – because she stayed on really well, and we know there were traffic problems.
“Then at the Oaks trial, the Listed race at Lingfield, she was fantastic.
“She travelled on soft ground, and Lingfield is undulating and possibly as close as you can get to Epsom away from Epsom.”
Thornton’s only worry is the possibility that the Oaks may be run at an unsuitably fast pace from the off, with his filly more suited to a late burst of speed.
“We’d hope we have a good each-way chance – if she could finish fourth or fifth then she’d have run very well,” he said.
“My only slight concern is the possibility that we haven’t got the tactical speed early – in Group Ones they go a good gallop.
“We wouldn’t want her in top gear all the way, so we may have to sit and suffer at some stage early on just to find her rhythm and find her gear, and then she should be staying on at the end.”
Apple Tree is based close to Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire, and Sherbet Lemon’s Lingfield win was its first at Listed level.
For that success she is rewarded with the all-important ‘black type’, a marker of class that will prove valuable when she eventually joins the stud’s band of broodmares.
“I thought to myself the other day that she’s done her job already,” said Thornton, who announced his retirement in 2015 following a highly-successful riding career.
“If they all won a maiden and then a Listed race and black type, your job’s done.
“Anything she does now is a bonus, so hopefully we can sit back and enjoy it.”
Sherbet Lemon will not be rushed to the breeding sheds, however.
Thornton said: “There are plenty of options for her to go at throughout the rest of the season – win, lose or draw.
“If she’s not up to that Group One class, there’s a good programme and there are French races as well.
“You’d have to give her a go as a four-year-old. I’m looking a long way ahead, but she’s still quite raw – and I think there’s a bit more to come.”