Victoria's oldest classic, the Group 1 VRC Derby preceded the Melbourne Cup by 6 years, with its first edition run in 1855. The feature race of what is arguably Australia's greatest throughbred meeting, this year's Derby has attracted a field of 17 three-year-olds, competing over 2500 metres for $1.5 million in prizemoney and the opportunity to stamp themselves as future stallions.
This year's renewal of the Derby has again attracted a full field, with in-form gallopers set to fight out the finish. The last Derby winner who was unplaced at his previous run was Redding, back in 1992. No Derby winner has finished further back than fourth at his previous start since Handy Proverb in 1985.
The Group 1 Victoria Derby is set to jump at 3:45pm (AEDT). Tune in to Sky racing to catch all the action!
Favourite with TAB.com.au Fixed Odds at $2.65 is number 1 Hampton Court, who will be attempting to give Gai Waterhouse her first Victoria Derby success since Nothing Leica Dane in 1995. Impressive winner of the Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick last start, the son of Redoute's Choice came off a hot speed to mow his opponents down by almost 2 1/2 lengths and will relish the extra 500 metres of his toughest assignment to date. Part-owned by James Packer and Sydney radio king Alan Jones, Hampton Court has a tremendous turn of foot and, like its namesake, King Henry VIII's castle, may prove an imposing presence to his rivals in the blue riband.
Another colt bringing winning form into the Derby is number 2, Moonovermanhattan, ($9), which, like Hampton Court, began his preparation in August. The Mick Price trained grey finished second to Almalad in the Stutt Stakes (1600) at Moonee Valley followed by a seventh in the Caulfield Guineas, before scoring a super-strong victory in last week's Vase (2040) on Cox Plate day. The last winner of the Vase-Derby double was Efficient in 2006, while Plastered (2004) and Helenus (2002) also clinched it. 2012 Vase winner Super Cool was the Derby runner-up to Fiveandahalfstar. To be ridden by Craig Newitt, this son of Manhattan Rain will run the journey right out and is my top selection at delicious each way fixed odds.
Check out the full TAB.com.au market for the Group 1 Victoria Derby here.
Horse number 13, Preferment ($5.50) is still a maiden after 6 starts, but the Chris Waller trained son of Zabeel flew late in the Geelong Classic (2200) to fail by a nose to one of his Derby rivals, Nozomi ($26). Preferment will (again) have the services of 4-time Derby winning hoop Damien Oliver and will be suited by the long straight at Flemington. The winkers go on and if they focus him on the job ahead he can give Sydney's leading trainer his first VR Derby success.
The other main contender is War Pass colt Bondeiger ($9) for trainer Danny O'Brien. To carry saddlecloth number 9 and regular rider James Winks, he clocked brilliant late sectionals when seventh in the Vase last week and should get a cosy run from barrier 1. Last week's run had Derby written all over it.
My Derby selections are: Moonovermanhattan to beat Preferment, Hampton Court and Bondeiger.
The entire Derby Day card is mouth-watering, with 4 Group 1's; 2 Group 2's and 3 Group 3 races.
Race 6, the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000 metres) is brimming with superstar equine athletes, with last year's winner Side Glance a scratching. Not so much a Melbourne Cup preview as in the past (Rogan Josh in 1999 was the last winner of the Mackinnon-Cup double), this million-dollar event is a weight-for-age classic and there are numerous chances, with the best advice to go wide in this first leg of the quaddie.
It's $5.50 the field with TAB.com.au Fixed Odds, with Epsom winner He's Your Man (Moreira/Waller) and Caulfield Stakes runner-up Criterion (Brown/Payne) equal favourites, just ahead of Caulfield Cup runner-up Rising Romance ($6) (McDonald/Logan) and Happy Trails (7.50), (Oliver/Beshara) which ran a slashing race in the Cox Plate after missing the start.
Race 5, the Group 3 Lexus Stakes (2500) is the final chance for those horses engaged to book a berth in The Melbourne Cup. The winner goes into Tuesday's big race. The favourite with TAB.COM.AU Fixed Odds ($2.80) is Herbert Power and Coongy placegetter, Signoff. Trained by Darren Weir and to be ridden by Joao Moreira, the former Irish galloper posted the fastest final section in the Coongy in a slowly run race.
A cracking 9 race program is set to get underway at 11:30am (AEDT). Enjoy the action of Derby Day on Sky Racing!