It's not only Australia and the UK which capture my attention with feature races - this weekend it's the blue riband 3yo classic of New Zealand. Taking the reins is another new recruit for the blog, NZ racing expert Corey Hyde, @chyde33.
TV3 NEW ZEALAND DERBY 2400M $750,000
A quality field of 14 colts & geldings and 4 fillies will engage over the 12 furlong journey at Ellerslie. Connections of the fillies will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Silent Achiever, who won the race in grand fashion 12 months ago, becoming the 1st filly to taste success since the victory of Popsy in 1993. In the midst of a drought in the upper North Island and no rain in sight, the track will certainly be in the good-to-firm range. Odds from NZ TAB Fixed Odds service.
#1 CHOICE BRO – BARRIER 14 – JOHN SARGENT – JONATHAN RIDDELL – $14
Has earned the #1 saddlecloth through his $316,630 in earnings, with major race wins coming in the G1 2YO Sires Produce Stakes and Karaka 3YO mile. Didn’t receive all favours when running 4th in the Avondale Guineas but finished on fairly. I predict him to settle mid-division or worse in the run in order to obtain cover. Definite chance.
#2 CASTLZEBERG – BARRIER 11 – J & B VANCE – OPIE BOSSON – $5
Recent acquisition of the OTI racing syndicate. Has improved with every run and has appreciated the added distance. Strong on-pace runner who is perfectly suited to the Ellerslie course, will roll forward and attempt to make all under top Kiwi rider Opie Bosson. Appears to be a typically tough NZ stayer who will relish the 2400m. He is a huge hope.
#3 ZINKO – BARRIER 9 – MURDOCH/OLSON – ALYSHA COLLET – $26
Has received the perfect run from good draws in previous 2 outings, including 5th last start in the Avondale Guineas. Unlikely to get such favours this time. Should find a spot in mid field from the barrier. Wet track pedigree and only win came on heavy going. Doesn’t appeal as a chance in this race.
#4 DEANE MARTIN – BARRIER 8 – BRUCE WALLACE – SAM SPRATT – $14
Has fashioned a good record at Ellerslie on firm tracks. Has run well without threatening in previous 2 runs, including 5.5 length 5th behind Habibi. Should receive a good run forward of mid field from the barrier. Not without a hope, although place chances appear best.
#5 WEISSMULLER – BARRIER 16 – JOHN KIERNAN – MICHAEL WALKER – $16
Burst to the top of Derby markets after slashing victory over a mile at Trentham on 19th January, although his 2 subsequent runs have been disappointing. The progeny of Handsome Randsom prefer some give in the track and Weissmuller appears to be no different, running out of a place in all 3 runs on good tracks. Only in his 1st preparation so may be tailing off. The barrier is of no concern as he is ridden cold, but I’m willing to risk him here. One to keep an eye on in the NZ spring next season.
#6 ADDICTIVE HABIT – BARRIER 4 – LEE SOMERVELL – ANDREW CALDER – $51
Was runner up to Habibi in consecutive races over the Christmas/New Year carnival. Has been plagued by rough gates, having drawn 12, 10, 9, 12, 14, & 12 in his previous 6 runs. Gets a gun draw here, and it will be interesting to see where he settles as he can either take a sit outside Habibi or cross in front of the filly. Could be the value runner for trifectas and First 4s.
#7 KING KAMADA – BARRIER 3 – LISA LATTA – NOEL HARRIS – $26
Comes in off recent racing in the Central Districts. Ran well when 2nd behind Deane Martin at Ellerslie on 16th December, and well held when 7th behind Habibi on the same course 1st January. He could benefit from a patient Noel Harris ride and I expect him to settle mid field on the fence. If ridden for luck and the gaps come his way he isn’t without a rough First 4 hope.
#8 SOLAR ECLIPSE – BARRIER 17 – GRAEME ROGERSON – RORY HUTCHINGS – $61
Battled on for 3rd behind Habibi on 1st January after a charmed run. Likely to go forward and will need to work early to obtain a position from the wide gate. Hard to see him figuring and the odds are an accurate reflection of his chances here.
#9 CORPORAL LINCOLN – BARRIER 5 – LISA LATTA – KELLY MYERS – $61
Quantum leap in grade here, although has won at Ellerslie. Beaten four lengths when 9th behind Choice Bro in Karaka 3YO Mile appears to be best guide. Should settle closer in the run than previously with the advantage of a good barrier, but he does look up against it.
#10 ALERT – BARRIER 7 – JASON BRIDGEMAN – MATTHEW CAMERON – $14
A horse with a real sense of timing about him. By perennial Derby-winning sire Zabeel, he looks the most suited in the field to the step up to 2400m. Beaten 6.5 lengths by Habibi on 1st January when too far back and race not run to suit. I expect him to settle just worse than midfield in a one-off position. With the race run to suit he ticks a lot of boxes and is my top selection.
#11 DUBAI SHUFFLE – BARRIER 10 – McRAE/CLARKEN – JAMIE MOTT – $26
Very lightly raced and another with a progressive profile, was an impressive winner over 2200m at Ellerslie last start. Had no luck in first 3 races, including eye catching run when beaten less than 3 lengths by Choice Bro in the Karaka 3YO Mile in only his 3rd race day appearance. Should settle back mid field or worse and will be running on late. The dark horse of the race for mine.
#12 SAINT KITT – BARRIER 6 – KELLY BURNE – ROGAN NORVALL – $81
Best form reference is a 2nd behind Deane Martin at Ellerslie on 6th November over a mile from barrier 1. Will settle handy and be there or there abouts in the run but hard to see him figuring in the finish.
#13 CELTIC CHIEF – BARRIER 12 – SHAUNE RITCHIE – JASON JAGO – $31
By Golan out of a Zabeel mare, he has a very stout staying pedigree and will have no problem with the added distance. Last two runs have netted a 5th and 6th behind Castlzeberg and Valbuena without threatening. Will likely go back from the draw. His best chance would appear to be making the race an out and out staying test with an early move. Not out of it and should finish in the first half of the field.
#14 THE GRINNER – BARRIER 2 – STEPHEN McKEE – JOCKEY N/A – $31
Lightly raced gelding with a very successful New Zealand pedigree. Hard to get a good line on this horse, but I’m willing to leave him out and keep an eye out for him next season.
#15 FIX – BARRIER 18 – K & B KELSO – MARK DU PLESSIS – $9
High class filly who has already sewn up the NZ 3YO filly of the year award. Well suited to Ellerslie with her on pace pattern, as demonstrated by her 3 for 3 record on the course. Has won several races off the back of soft leads this season. Can’t see her getting such terms here from the outside gate with several on pace runners engaged. Under the odds for mine and I will be risking her.
#16 HABIBI – BARRIER 1 – D & D LOGAN – VINNY COLGAN – $2.80
Long time Derby favourite who tasted defeat for the 1st time last start when 3rd in the Avondale Guineas. That was her 1st run for 6 weeks and I expect her to take great improvement from the run. Was dominant in beating the males previously on the course. She has the class to be ridden positively and if she obtains a position on the leaders back she is the horse to beat.
#17 SORIANO – BARRIER 15 – GRAEME ROGERSON – LISA ALLPRESS – $18
Very little between her and Fix, and of the two she appears to me to be the one most suited by the increase in distance. Similarly to her arch nemesis she has been badly treated by the barrier draw. Ridden cold appears to be the best option. Not out of it but others make more appeal.
#18 KIDWELLY – BARRIER 13 – MORONEY/ORMSBY – MICHAEL COLEMAN – $31
Career best when narrowly beaten by Fix at Ellerslie on 1st January. A repeat effort would have her finishing in the 1st half of the field. Barrier looks problematic and willing to rule her out on that basis.
The race looks to be run at a Good-to-Fast tempo, with Castlzeberg, Fix, and Solar Eclipse having to overcome outside barriers in order to secure positions on the pace, with Addictive Habit, Saint Kitt and Habibi holding their positions from the inside. I am looking forward to the strategic positioning of Habibi and Addictive Habit. Addictive Habit looks to have the option of positioning outside Habibi and holding the filly in a pocket if Andrew Calder so chooses.
The real question is whether to give more weight to this expected race tempo or to the usual on-pace track bias at Ellerslie. I am going with the former and predicting horses from midfield and further back to get their chance in the straight. The First 4 I have settled on is:
#11 DUBAI SHUFFLE