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AAMI Victoria Derby preview

The headline act of Derby Day is naturally the 3yo classic, although it's fair to say it is just one of the great races of the day, rather than the standout highlight you might find at Churchill Downs or Epsom. Taking up the reins with a special look at both breeding and the form is Joshua Langdon, @wenin_rome. Read the rest of his Flemington preview at his site, ThePuntRoadEnd.


AAMI Victoria Derby

The oldest classic race on the Victorian racing calendar, the Victoria Derby was first contested in 1855. It is run over 2500m, at set weights. Colts and geldings carry 55.5kg, with fillies receiving an allowance of 2.5kg. It’s largely dominated by the boys with the last filly to win in 1923, being Frances Tressady.

Time: Track record for the Flemington 2500m is 2:33.00 (Kawtuban)

Lead Up Form:

This has historically consisted of the following races: AAMI Vase (Savvy Nature, Drago, Great Esteem, Pinstripe Lane, Storm Approach and Tips and Beers) with 9 of the last 17, the Norman Robinson (Bring Something, Cadillac Mountain, Epic Saga, Famechon, Honey Steels Gold, Polanksi, San Diego and Surging Wave) with five of the past 17 winners and the Spring Champion Stakes (Complacent, Savvy Nature, Criterion and Thunder Fantasy) with three of the past 17 winners.

The Geelong Classic (Dark Thunder, Gravitational, Throw the Queen and Tupac Amaru) has also been a solid guide, with the race over 2200m.


Given none of these three year olds are yet to run over the 2500m, it’s often too hard for the average punter to pick the best stayer. However, we can sometimes gauge some sort of opinion based on their pedigree. Northern hemisphere breeding buffs will be staggered to learn that Australian racing doesn't discriminate against geldings running in the classics.

Here’s a very quick snapshot.

BRING SOMETHING 3YO Bay Gelding by Sebring – Metellus

Out of Sebring, who won the Golden Slipper and the Sires Produce, but did not win over 1400m. Sebring is a More Than Ready stallion who has produced mostly sprinters to milers. Metellus is the dam side and was an un-raced mare, with Naturalism her sire, who won the AAMI Vase and Australian Derby.

COMPLACENT 3YO Brown Colt by Authorized (IRE) – Insouciance

A typically beautifully-bred Darley colt, the sire is Authorised, an English Derby winner who also finished 10th in the Arc (2400m), while Insouciance won over 1600m, with her sire Quest For Fame producing most of his winners over 1200m to 1800m in distance.

CRITERION (NZ) 3YO Chestnut Colt by Sebring – Mica’s Pride

Another out by Sebring (see Bring Something). Mica’s Pride only raced briefly over 1200m and is by Bite the Bullet who has not produced much over 1800m.

DARK THUNDER (NZ) 3YO Brown Colt by Pentire (GB) – Thorena

Dark Thunder's sire Pentire was a dual G1 European winner and has produced such quality horses as King Mufhasa and Rangirangdoo. Thorena is a broodmare out of Chief’s Crown who was produced winners over 2400m, but only around $2m in prize money all up.

DRAGO 3YO Brown Colt by Danehill Dancer (IRE) – Snapdragon (IRE)

Danehill Dancer is arguably the best sire son of Danehill producing such stars as Choisir. Danehill is of course the most successful sire of the recent era, producing the likes of Dylan Thomas (Arc winner), Redoute's Choice and Exceed and Excel. Snapdragon only raced twice and both times over 2400m, she is a daughter of Galileo, who is of course another of the greatest sires of all time having produced the likes of Frankel and some familiar names in Niwot and Seville, both proven over the distance.

EPIC SAGA 3YO Chestnut Gelding by Real Saga – Al’s Wish

Real Saga is yet to produce a winner over 1700m, with the most around the 1100m to 1300m range. His sire was Tale Of The Cat who also produced most of his winners over the same distance.

FAMECHON 3YO Bay Colt by Haradasun – Heavenly Insight

Haradasun is a new stallion, having produced winners generally over the 1400m range and he himself never won over 1600m. His sire was Fusaichi Pegasus who also generally produces 1400m to 1600m horses. Heavenly Insight is another Broodmare out of Galileo.

GREAT ESTEEM 3YO Bay Colt by Redoute’s Choice – Park Esteem (IRE)

Redoute’s Choice is a champion stallion, but yet to really produce anything over 2000m. He is of course a son of Danehill, who has produced those who can run over the 2000m mark. Park Esteem’s sire was Singspiel whose progeny have earned more than $45m and unlike most of the others has delivered more often than not 2000+ horses.

HONEY STEEL’S GOLD 3YO Chestnut Gelding by Keep the Faith – Lunar Lights

Honey’s Steel’s Gold’s sire is yet to produce many over the required distance, but his sire Sunday Silence has including star stallion and superstar in Deep Impact. Lunar Lights finished 7th in the 2008 Oaks behind Samantha Miss.

PINSTRIPE LANE (NZ) 3YO Bay Colt by Pins – Singasong (NZ)

Pinstripe Lane is the son of a very good sire, producing the likes of Ambitious Dragon (Hong Kong Classic) and El Segundo (Cox Plate). Singasong was a placegetter over 2000m and is sired by Danasinga, a son of Danehill.

POLANSKI 3YO Bay Colt by Rakti (GB) – Citrium

Polanski is son to Rakti, who finished seventh in a Hong Kong Cup and was sired by Polish Precedent who two G1 races in France from Ragera, a mare by Blushing Groom’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Rainbow Quest. He has sired plenty of staying horses above and beyond the 2500m mark.

SAN DIEGO 3YO Bay Colt by Exceed And Excel – Del Mar (NZ)

San Diego is sired by another stallion of the moment in Exceed And Excel, who has produced over $50m in stakeswinners, including the likes of Guelph, Helmet and Overreach, but few that have run over any distance. He is another who is sired by Danehill. Del Mar is sired by Zabeel, who needs no introduction, producing the likes of Efficient, Savabeel and Maldivian.

SAVVY NATURE (NZ) 3YO Bay Gelding by Savabeel – Generous Nature

Savvy Nature is sired by Savabeel, who is the son of Zabeel and a Cox Plate winner himself. He produced a recent Derby winner in Sangster.

STORM APPROACH 3YO Chestnut Gelding by Purrealist – Smytzer’s Thunder

Purrealist is the sire the Hawkspur who is on track to have a strong hand in the Melbourne Cup

SURGING WAVE 3YO Bay Gelding by Encosta de Lago – Lucida

Encosta de Lago is the sire of over 20 individual Gr.1 winners including Alinghi, Racing To Win, Northern Meteor (sire of Zoustar) and Sacred Kingdom. On the dam side, Lucida is sired by Danehill.

TIPS AND BEERS 3YO Bay Gelding by De Beers (NZ) – Gypsy Giaconda

De Beers is a largely unproven sire, with Tips and Beers being his highest earner to date. De Beers is the son of Quest for Fame.

TUPAC AMARU 3YO Brown Colt by Street Cry (IRE) – Peruvian (GB)

Street Cry is a serious sire having produced the likes of Zenyatta, Shocking, Whobegotyou, Long John and Carlton House. The Dam side, Peruvian was sired by Strategic who has produced mainly sprinters such as Platelet.


Since 1973 when the AAMI Derby distance was lengthened by 100 metres to 2500 metres, the barriers one (successively 1993-94), two, seven and eight have provided four winners each. The most successful outside barrier is 14 (successively 1997-98) with three winners, while barriers three and nine have not produced the winner.


1. Criterion
Was very good over 2000m in the Spring Champion behind only Complacent. After fancying him earlier on I am starting to lean towards leaving him out. He is a son of Sebring who is yet to really show he can produce the staying type and the barrier does not help.

2. Complacent
Has been super in his last three outings, including a G3 Gloaming over 1800m and G1 Spring Champion over 2000m, beating Savvy Nature in both starts. His sire, Authorised finished 10th in an Arc. My main negative for Complacent, despite the obvious good form and class, is that I am very wary of the gate here. He has had the gun run from barrier one in his last two starts and each time this has certainly helped. From barrier 16, this just makes things that little bit harder and albeit for a first timer over the distance and as he is likely to push forward, he could be caught out wider than he would like.

3. Savvy Nature
This Savabeel gelding brought the slashing Sydney form down to Melbourne and had a very easy last start win in the Monnee Valley Vase, which is historically a strong form race. However, who did he beat? All Rigged Up was a 200/1 shot and Drago was a complete forget job. John O’shea was hoping to draw a barrier no further out than eight out and he has drawn 13. I’ve been in his camp since the Gloaming, but the barrier hurts him a bit here. Flemington will definitely suit and with rail positioned true, this could help his case from the wider gate. A lot rides on James McDonald and he will want to ensure that he is a bit closer to the speed than It’s A Dundeel was last year.

4. Polanski
Another who has done nothing wrong recently, winning his last two starts including the Norman Robinson over 2000m, which along with the Vase has been a historically good form race for this. His run in the Stutt Stakes was a forget case. He has however enjoyed the gun run in his past two starts, both times starting wider out, he jumps from barrier one here and if he can once again be close to the front from the start then he is a huge chance.

5. Drago
Ran very well behind Complacent and Savvy Nature in the Gloaming, but has been very disappointing since. Jumped poorly last start and after being forced along ended up leading. This did not suit at all and after hitting the lead in the straight, died badly. He has the breeding to suggest that he will stay the distance. The barrier is not ideal.

6. San Diego
You have to admire his last two starts where he had far less luck than the winners each time. He was very good in the Stutt Stakes after being held up and we all know how good that form has been coming out of that race with Divine Calling and Shamus Award finishing second and third in the Guineas and then the maiden winning the Cox Plate. In the Norman Robinson, from a wide gate, did far too much work early on to get to the front and was just nabbed on the line by Polanski, who had a much easier go at it. If he can settle here and actually get some luck, then think he is the one to beat.

7. Honey Steel’s Gold
Just going I think and although finished fourth in the Norman Robinson, there were better runs to come out of the race. I am happy to draw a line through him and if it wins, then so be it. It doesn’t help that Luke Nolan is on board either, he is well and truly out of form this Spring.

8. Tips and Beers
I can’t have on top of any of those mentioned above. Was fourth in a weak Moonee Valley Vase and Savvy Nature showed there that he is a class above him.

9. Epic Saga
Another who has been super competitive in recent runs, but also draws poorly in barrier 17. Polanski has had the better of him in his last two starts and I can’t see him getting past him here. However, he will no doubt be very honest and must respect for the multiples.

10. Tupac Amaru
Another of the Darley crew here and one which also impresses me. After jumping favourite in the Geelong Classic over 2200m, he fought to the line well suggesting the extra 300m will not be an issue, but just couldn’t quite get there on a heavy surface. In the Super Impose he also got going very late and hit the line hard, suggesting the 1800m could be a little short for him. I am very respecting here and especially given his breeding, he is a son to Irish superstar, Street Cry who has produced the links of Shocking, Whobegotyou and Zenyatta.

11. Pinstripe Lane
Was good home late last start against Savvy Nature in the Moonee Valley Vase over the 2040m and was sound in the Super Impose against Polanski. Should definitely run out of the distance, but think there are others here better suited.

12. Throw The King
Was easily beaten the Geelong Classic by Tupac Amaru, which apart from that horse, the rest of the field were pretty average. Happy to leave out.

13. Thunder Fantasy
Was spruiked a bit coming into the Dulcify, but then traveled three wide with no cover and never a chance. He won by 5 lengths the start before in a Class 1 54 in Newcastle. If he can regain that form then he should be competitive here.

14. Surging Wave
Although hasn’t placed in past three, each have had merit. In the Norman Robinson he was forced wide and still made up ground late and the run was a black booker. Gets Nick Hall on board, who is on fire this Spring. Don’t see any reason why he won’t see out the distance and is out of a mare who’s sire is Danehill.

15. Famechon
Was very impressive late in the Super Impose after being wide with no cover for most of the race. Last start was less impressive, finishing sixth in the Norman Robinson. Would have to pull something out here to beat a few here who appear a bit too classy. Harahasun is still yet to produce a horse who can travel the trip, but he’s great grandfather is Galileo.

16. Bring Something
Loved the Stutt Stakes performance and was one of the best home, then again was again finishing hard in the Norman Robinson. Another by Sebring, who may be a query to get the distance, but the dam sire is Naturalism . If there is to be one at the odds…


Happy to have San Diego on top, he has had little luck compared to those who have won in his races and has looked to improve on each start. Think Flemington will be great for him and can see he getting a gun run throughout from the barrier. Distance should not be an issue. Savvy Nature is very classy and won so easily at Moonee Valley when the track clearly did not suit. He had excuses in the Gloaming and again just too far back in the Spring Champion. If had of drawn a better barrier, I probably would have had him on top. Polanski has done little wrong this campaign and the distance should not be an issue. Has had the benefit of some very good rides recently and if it can get into the same position then will be hard to beat. Complacent is arguably the form horse coming into the race, but has drawn poorly compared to last two starts where he has had the gun run. Will find this tougher, but could just be too good for them.

San Diego
Savvy Nature

Best Outsiders: Bring Something and Surging Wave


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