The Freedman-trained Chica Fuerte proved too tough at Caulfield on Saturday thanks to a brilliant front-running ride from Ben Melham in the Group 3 Ethereal Stakes (2000m).

The in-form jock wasted no time getting to the front in the capacity field, a decision that paid off almost instantly as the pair dictated right through tp the post.

With previous winners coming from all different spots on the track, on-speed proved the place to be as Chica Fuerte found the line brilliant to win by a length ahead of Salto Angel and Star Of Eden.

The three-year-old filly by Hinchinbrook was a slight query beyond the mile, but still managed to handle the rise in trip with the winkers off for the first time.

Melham said after the race that she does her best racing in front and that she showed plenty of improvement coming off a last start third in the Group 2 Edward Manifold (1600m) at Flemington.

“I think she’s better when she can find the front. Once she found the front she had some really steady sectionals through the wind and got going early and rode pretty steady throughout the race,” Melham told racing.com.

A further step up to the 2500m in the Group 1 Kennedy Oaks on November 5 could be on the cards, although it seems unlikely based on Melham’s post-race thoughts.

“She’s by Hinchinbrook, so that’s probably the little concern with her. She did a good job to win today, but she had things on her terms. I just have a little question mark about any further” Melham went on to say.

Co-trainer Sam Freedman seemed to agree, stating that Chica Fuerte is more likely to close out her prep in the Group 2 Wakeful Stakes (2000m) at Flemington in a fortnight’s time.

“The Wakeful is a really nice race for her if she comes through this well,” Freedman said.

“The Oaks is probably not on the agenda at this stage, it’s a very testing 2500m and we think she’s probably a preparation away still and the Wakeful might be a nice grand final.”

Salto Angel did well to get up for second after settling towards the back of the field.

The New Zealand import has firmed from $21 into $14 in Ladbrokes’ All-In Oaks market, while third place-getter Star of Eden is $34 into $17.

Ladbrokes’ complete 2020 Kennedy Oaks market can be viewed here.

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