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Victoria Derby preview

The greatest day in world racing is upon us again, and it comes to us from the world's greatest city - Melbourne. The city is abuzz with Cup fever but before that, it's the purist's race day - Derby Day. Flemington will be in magnificent condition ahead of the four day carnival, and we've got a new contributor stepping to provide feature previews over the week.
It's a warm welcome to the team at StatsInsider. Find them on Twitter here.

I'll also be chipping in with a few previews over the week where time permits. And if you fancy penning a preview yourself, please drop me a line!

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Victoria Derby Betting Preview
By Aaron Murphy on 1-Nov, time of writing 14:55.

The opening feature of Flemington’s spring carnival is nearly upon us, and the Stats Insider racing model is in for a profitable week after a solid start to it's ratings. Probably the biggest day of the year for the racing purist given the quality of the entire program, with four Group 1s and the remainder of the card also at G2/G3 level. 

THINKIN' BIG is all the rage after his last start in the Caulfield Classic, but was never challenged for the front and allowed to dictate terms from start to finish. Expecting a much quicker tempo, similar to what he faced in Sydney two starts back where he was run down by ARAMAYO and Maid Of Heaven. This is sure to be a bigger test. 
None of these runners have ever been tested over the 2500m (or even 2400m), so while there may be a couple of surprises, it makes studying the usual lead-up races (Caulfield Classic, Moonee Valley Vase, Geelong Classic) all the more important.
Not one of the past 30 Victoria Derby winners finished further back than fifth in its last start, and 28 of them placed. 
SAVOIE is drawn wide but based on his last few starts may want to press forward early, particularly with the short gallop down the straight to the first turn. SIKORSKY is also drawn to lead along the inside with FAROOQ, and they may wish to give Thinkin’ Big a hard time early on as he will be prominent throughout.

AAMI Victoria Derby
Flemington Race 7 
3:50pm, (04.50 GMT) 
G1, AU$2,000,000, 2500m
1.THINKIN’ BIG (barrier 9)
SI Rating: 96
$2.90 to $3.20. The thoroughly deserving favourite after a dominant performance in the Caulfield Classic, which some of this field tackled. Won by three lengths and ran the quickest last 200m sectional of the race despite leading all the way on a soft-6. Third over a soft-7 (borderline heavy) track two starts back in Sydney where he didn’t look entirely comfortable. Does his best racing on the good tracks, which is a scary prospect for this field. His chances probably come down to tempo and whether Tim Clark can give him an easy run through the middle mile. 

2.ARAMAYO (10)
SI Rating: 95
Steady at $6.50. Cummings in for a huge carnival and Aramayo is one of his most exciting prospects and the clear challenger should they overdo it at the front. Ran down Thinkin’ Big in Sydney two starts back but his most impressive effort was last start at Moonee Valley where he charged home from tenth at the 800m into the placings on a track that was typically leader biased. Hasn’t tackled anything greater than the 2040m but nothing to suggest he’ll have any trouble with the 2500m. Should relish the long straight.

4.STARS OF CARRUM (7)
SI Rating: 95
Good support - $12 into $9.50. If you took the $26 before last start you’re laughing. Second-highest rated horse in the field. Fought superbly knocking off Savoie in the Vase thanks to one of the rides of the day from Melham, who said after the race: “[Savoie] was always going to take plenty of running down and I thought I was going to run second but he knuckled down well late.” Unlucky not to win in Adelaide two starts back also. One of the few who looks to be genuinely advantaged by the step up in distance. History is also on his side: 17 of the past 30 Vase winners to have followed up in the Derby have placed. 

3.EXTRA BRUT (15)
SI Rating: 93
Steady at $9.50. Always hard to pot a Weir-Allen combination but the wide draw isn’t going to help - they tend to struggle in the Derby from this wide out. But if we are going to use history as a guide, the sixth place in the Caulfield Classic suggests his form is not good enough - even though he did string together three consecutive wins before that over the 1300-1800m range. Will be giving the others a big start from the wide draw and would prefer over a shorter distance. 

7.SAVOIE (17)
SI Rating: 90
$9 to $9.50. Great chance and doesn’t know how to run a bad race (7: 2-2-2). Third in the UCI Stakes behind Extra Brut and Sikorsky, improved with a second to Stars Of Carrum in the Moonee Valley Vase where he led at the 400m but was just pipped. Won the Victoria Derby trial before that. The bloodline has produced a lot of quality Kiwi horses, so won’t be surprised to see him in the finish. The barrier is the only thing keeping him out of the placings for me, though Inference placed from gate 16 in 2016 so it can be done. He just needs to start brilliantly so Yendall can steer him into a comfortable spot at the first turn.

12.FAROOQ (2)
SI Rating: 90
Firmed from $16 into $12 on Wednesday. Drawn to get a soft run, Kerryn McEvoy should have plenty of options from gate 2. Can sit behind a quick tempo or be a part of the early business if they go fairly slow early.  Great effort in the Geelong Classic, leading from the 1200m only to be pipped by Home Ground. Proof that 2500m will suit and has plenty of fitness to boot. Neither of the McEvoys have ever won a Derby, with the hoop finishing second four times. Worth an each-way go without a doubt.

6.MICKEY BLUE EYES (3)
SI Rating: 89
$17 into $14 with the good draw, back out to $16. A consistent runner but could be out of his depth here. Consecutive fifths in the Spring Champion and the MV Vase but his one saviour is that, while he was not a winning chance in either race, the way he boxed on in both suggests he may be more advantaged by the step up to 2500m than most. The dam is out of Zabeel and won at 2200m. Can’t keep him out of the exotics. 

10.CHAPADA (12)
SI Rating: 86
$12 out to $14 with the wide-ish gate. Great staying pedigree. One of a few horses that looks to have the potential to turn the tables on Thinkin’ Big after his second place in the Caulfield Classic. Beat home Sikorsky and Visao that day. The draw doesn’t help though - could be stuck wide outside the on-pacers early. His advantage on that part is that James McDonald - one of Australia’s best readers of a race - is on. Moroney has won this race twice previously. 

5.HOME GROUND (16)
SI Rating: 77
Steady at $21. Winner of the Geelong Classic last start. While that race doesn’t usually produce Derby winners (no Geelong Classic winner has won the Derby since 1974), it does suggest he should be somewhat suited by the distance. He was well behind the others in the Spring Champion a race further back. Out of High Chaparral. Even Bowman, a three-time Derby winner, admits that Home Ground is well out of his depth here: “I think the favourite looks to have a bit of a mortgage on it to be honest.”

17.ALESSANDRO (e1) (1)
SI Rating: 75
$31 into $21. First emergency, so needs a scratching to get in. A Fiorente colt out of a Galileo half-sister to The Offer, so bred to be a stakes stayer. Robbie Griffiths has expressed confidence at getting a cheque if he can sneak in. Won a BM64 at Cranbourne last start so this is too big a step up. 

11.SIKORSKY (6)
SI Rating: 68
$17 out to $21. One of David Hayes’ two hopes, but never won beyond 1600m and looks like one that will have big things to come after this spring. Could not have fought harder in the UCI Stakes behind Extra Brut before a third in the Caulfield Classic behind Thinkin’ Big and Chapada. Beat home Grinzinger Star, another rough chance, in his maiden win at Sale. Will be in the early speed battle which could prove detrimental if the favourite has his way. 

18.VOW AND DECLARE (e2) (8)
SI Rating: 61
Steady at $51. Second emergency. Broke his maiden in a tough run at Warrnambool over 2381m, and no competitor in this field has won over further. Not exposed to anything near this grade of racing though. 

16.GRINZINGER STAR (4)
SI Rating: 51
$51 into $34 and probably one of the better roughies. Third in the Geelong Classic over 2200m, which can be used as a lead-up race but not often. Same sire as the runner-up (Sully) in the 2017 Derby and the dam (Miss Artistic) is a NZ Oaks winner. Damien Oliver is the most successful Derby jockey in the field and with a good draw he should be on-pace. Could be worth a little each-way play. 

15.TOLEMAC (14)
SI Rating: 18
$71 to $67. Could go well in the Australian Derby next year if they take that path, but probably needs more time before being considered a decent chance here. The pedigree is promising: the sire (Camelot) produces a lot of good stakes stayers and the dam’s bloodlines go back to Pentire who bred Prince of Penzance. Second to Savoie in the Derby trial in September and followed it up with fourth in the Geelong Classic behind three of the field here. Not this time.

8.VISAO (13)
SI Rating: 16
$34 out to $41. Raced well as a 2yo but this looks a touch too hard. Fourth in the Caulfield Classic after a forgivable slog in the Spring Champion. Good pedrigee - by High Chaparral out of an Encosta De Lago dam - but hasn’t won over further than 1800m as yet. Others look to be going better.

14.SAVVY OAK (5)
SI Rating: 16
$21 into $18. Out of a G3-winning daughter of High Chaparral, who has produced a ton of good stayers. Fourth in the Moonee Valley Vase last start (2040m) behind a few of these but was one of the few horses on the day to make up late ground, from 11th to fourth in the last 400m. Not entirely out of this if the speed is on but has been chasing behind quite a few of the others (such as Extra Brut and Savoie) throughout the prep, so probably not in contention realistically.

13.LOUIE THE LEGEND (11)
SI Rating: 13
$101 to $91. Outclassed. Not bred to win a Derby and the results back that up, with just the one career win over 1400m and has been behind Extra Brut twice this prep before fading away in the Geelong Classic last start. Will be on pace early but hard to see him keeping up in this grade. 

9.SEBERATE (18)
SI Rating: 12
Steady at $101. Followed up third in a Listed Adelaide race with an unimpressive stone motherless last in the Geelong Classic where he couldn’t keep up with many of this field. The first one to put the pencil through.

Stats Insider's selections: 1-2-4-3
Aaron Murphy’s selections: 4-12-1-2

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