The time-honoured Group One Victoria Derby may no longer be the springboard for our nation’s staying superstars, but it makes for an exciting and wide-open contest that always proves difficult to dissect.
Will we see Young Werther follow in the footsteps of superstar stablemate Russian Camelot and take out a Derby with less than five career starts under his belt?
Or, can Fred Kersley and Matt Cumani claim their first Group One scalp with talented Dundeel colt Hit The Shot?
Dennis Pagan is a renowned Grand Final specialist and brings Johnny Get Angry into the race as a live chance in his first season among the training ranks.
Paddy Payne and Billy Egan will team up with Cherry Tortoni in what will be Egan’s best chance at taking out his maiden Group One.
While there can be a case made for almost all runners, I've settled on one who came home in the Caulfield Classic with a flashing light run.
For the latest insight into how the Flemington track is expected to play, read my preview of the Group One Kennedy Cantala here.
Analysis & Tips
1st Hit The Shot $7.00
I’m keen to be with the Matt Cumani trained Dundeel colt, who is bred to stay the trip and is crying out for 2500m.
His run here last month in the Derby Trial over 1800m was arguably the run of the race, where he sat midfield and couldn’t build momentum at key stages when he was stuck behind a wall of horses.
In that race, he was doing his best work over the concluding stages under light riding due to traffic issues.
He then backed that effort up with a flashing light run in the Caulfield Classic, which he would’ve won with an extra 50 metres.
The map here is unclear, but I expect Kersley to camp midfield with cover from barrier 9. From there, he will be perfectly placed to peel to the outside and charge down the famous straight to claim his maiden Group 1 victory at the ripe age of 21.
2nd Young Werther
The Danny O’Brien trained gelding has had a less than ideal lead into this race, after being scratched from last Saturday's Drummond Vase at The Valley due to the rain affected surface.
However so did Russian Camelot in preparation for his SA Derby victory this year, after he missed a key lead up race and was forced to rise from a mile to 2500m following a month break between runs.
There’s no suggestion that he’s the second coming of Russian Camelot, but O’Brien holds this galloper in high regard. If his luckless run behind Khoekhoe at 1800m here earlier this month is any indication of his talent, he’ll be awfully hard to hold out.
He’s drawn low, but I’m backing Ollie in to rewrite the wrongs of last time. After all, he’s a big-time performer who knows a thing or two about winning a Group One.
3rd Cherry Tortoni
The money has come for the exciting Chestnut, who has been backed from $6.50 into $4.20. However, I’m happy to be with others at the current price.
His run in the Vase was enormous when sitting wide without cover, but he looked to be fading over the concluding stages with Khoekhoe flashing late.
While he has been set for this race, the outside draw will force Egan to either settle towards the rear, or press forward and risk being caught wide without cover over a trip that I see his rivals being stronger over.
He’s yet to win on better than Soft going and with little rain forecast across Melbourne, it’s another negative among many for this galloper.
4th Johnny Get Angry
He was beaten 7 lengths by Cherry Tortoni in the Group 2 Vase at The Valley last Saturday, but I expect the margin to read much closer here at the Derby trip.
This horse lacks a turn of foot but looks to be more effective at 2500m, where he can be ridden cold and grind away at the leaders with blinkers on.
The main knock is the lack of speed in the race. However, he’s proven at Flemington and looks well over the odds if he can recapture the effort that saw him finish within two lengths of Cherry Tortoni here over a mile in July.