It kinda sucks when it gets to NZ Derby time mainly because it really does signal the peak and mantle of the 3yo season in New Zealand, and mate, what a season it has been!
It would be hard to find another year where the 3yo ranks have been so intriguingly competitive.
Trainers playing trump cards with perfectly timed rapid improvement and that die hard belief about many of these trainers that: “this is my Derby horse” – Said with that typically Kiwi understated and somewhat humble conviction.
The great thing is there is a very good chance that we will see a truly run event over the 2400m’s with the notable presence of speed and born leaders in this crop setting this up for a real champion to emerge.
Puccini (above) has shown in recent racing that leading is his best form of attack. The only real blemish in his record of recent racing was the 0.9 Lengths 4th placing on the very hard Trentham surface in the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m’s) to the talented and reinvigorated Gp1 2yo champion filly Recite. He is the closest finisher from that event to line up here in the Derby. This is of considerable note in that he has won his next two starts over 2000m’s and 2100m’s respectively beating many of his rivals that will line up again here.
The spine tingling words that came from Jockey Michael Walkers pronounced and arrogant comments after the last start win in the Avondale Guineas (2100m’s).
He stated with dour intent that there is: “further improvement in him” and, “He can go quicker” and, if they took to take him on in front it will be “only to their peril”
Puccini did have another good blow after that win and it was a win that had exuberant flair about it, where he kicked and bounded mid way down the Ellerslie stretch in a playful like manner toying with the tough Rising Romance (above) who was the only other galloper to come out of that race to display any sort of commendable merit to indicate she was likely to repeat that performance over the longer trip of 2400m’s.
A runner that is also of notable mention, that didn’t run in the Avondale Guineas, was Weregoingtogetcha (above). Now, the term rapid improvement really does apply to this galloper and the well timed preparation seems to be proving like clockwork.
His run in the Gp2 Waikato Guineas (a race that has become a good guide in recent years, referencing Silent Achiever taking a cold shot on Ocean Park to win in 2012) was that of a galloper coming to hand. His fast finishing 2.1 Lengths 3rd to Puccini from back in the field 12th in running on a course that is generally unkind to back marker runners, really did indicate that he has the ability to finish off the 2400m’s and with any sort of “kinder” trip “in running” he’s a serious threat to our well placed favourtite for the event in Puccini.
The crystal ball says Puccini leads to win to a fast finishing Weregoingtogetcha blowing past the brave Rising Romance with runners like Glorious Lad and the badly drawn Spellbinder fighting away in behind.
The market will look to be fairly accurate and after a long and thrilling 3yo season the punters finally have a very good gauge on the race. Puccini will be short for a Group 1 Set Weights environment of 56.5kg’s over a distance that these runners all debut at. Value about Weregoingtogetcha early and a likely mover in the market this suggests the price about Rising Romance will slightly drift if not hold.
Justin Churchman’s Top 5 for the TV3 New Zealand Derby over 2400m’s racing at the Auckland Racing Club’s Ellerslie Racecourse are: