It may not be the Melbourne Cup but no day on the Australian racing calendar gets the blood pumping more than Derby Day.
The opening of the four-day Melbourne Cup carnival, Derby Day is filled with black-type racing from beginning to end, the only race day in Australia that can boast such a high standard of thoroughbred racing.
Derby Day features four Group 1 events, headlined by the time-honoured Victoria Derby.
First run in 1855, turf greats such as Phar Lap, Tulloch, Tobin Bronze, Dulcify and Efficient have claimed Derby honours at Australia's most revered track, Flemington.
New Zealand horses have had plenty of success in the Derby in recent years and have a strong hand this time with Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman preparing Weather With You while Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young have a four-strong team led by race favourite Main Stage.
The Myer Classic for mares, the Coolmore Stud Stakes for three-year-olds and the Kennedy Mile are the remaining Group 1s on a stellar day of racing.
The Lexus Stakes also provides a last chance to qualify for the Melbourne Cup with Kiwi Pentathlon $41 in the race. Currently 31st in the Cup order of entry, John Wheeler's veteran stayer will likely need a win to race on Tuesday.
Derby Day: what you need to know
A$1.5 million for three-year-olds (2500m).
GROUP 1 AAMI VICTORIA DERBY
SATURDAY 5:50PM (NZ)
GROUP 1 AAMI VICTORIA DERBY PROFILE
Status: Group 1
Only one of the last 31 Derby winners has finished further back than fourth in their final leadup.
The AAMI Vase is the best lead-in with 16 of the last 31 Derby winners coming through the race.
Only five AAMI Vase winners have won the VRC Derby.
The Caulfield Classic-VRC Double has been completed just once in the last 16 years.
Four of the last eight Derby winners ran in the Spring Champion Stakes.
Favourites have won just 1 of the last 10 Victoria Derbies.
Favourites have placed in just 10 of the last 18 Victoria Derbies.
Four of the last seven winners have been longer than $13 in betting.
Backmarkers have dominated recent Derbies with horses seventh or worse in running winning five of the last six.
Hugh Bowman has ridden 3 of the last 7 VRC Derby winners.
Damien Oliver has ridden four Derby winners since 2001.
No trainer has won two VRC Derbies this century.
Melbourne horses have won just two of the last eight Victoria Derbies.
Colts have won 7 of the last 9 Victoria Derbies
HistoryFirst run in 1855 when won by Rose Of May, the Victoria Derby pre-dates the Melbourne Cup by six years and is one of the oldest races in the world.
Notable Winners: Manfred (1925), Phar Lap (1929), Skipton (1941), Comic Court (1948), Delta (1949), Tulloch (1957), Sky High (1960), Tobin Bronze (1965), Dulcify (1978), Mahogany (1993), Elvstroem (2003), Efficient (2006), Lion Tamer (2010), Preferment (2014)
Talking pointsJames Scobie holds training record with eight winners.
The late Bart Cummings and the late TJ Smith share modern-day training honours with five winners each.
Gai Waterhouse, daughter of TJ Smith, became the first woman to train a Victoria Derby winner when Nothin' Leica Dane, part-owned by her father, won in 1995.
Legendary jockey Bobby Lewis holds record for most number of Victoria Derby wins with eight.
Tulloch the shortest-priced favourite at 1-10 when he won in 1957.
Martini-Henri won the 1883 Victoria Derby at his first start and Melbourne Cup at his second.
James Cummings became a fourth generation trainer to win a Victoria Derby with Prized Icon's 2016 victory. Cummings has Astoria in this year's race.
The 2500m is a query for every runner as the Victoria Derby offers the first chance for three-year-olds to be tested at the distance.
Fire Oak (1990) became first maiden since Martini-Henri to win. Two years later Redding repeated the feat.
In 2014 Preferment also broke his maiden in the Derby.
Johnny Vinko, Nothing Too Hard, Wolfe Tone, and first emergency Beachwood are maidens in this year's race.
WHAT THE KEY PLAYERS ARE SAYING
"I feel he's had a good preparation for a Derby. He's a nice strong horse, well-bred. He's got a good attitude and we've got a good in-form jockey. So there's a lot to like about Tangled heading into the Derby" - Tangled's trainer Chris Waller.
"He's always looked a nice relaxed staying horse and from what I've seen of all the Derby candidates he looks like he's going to run the distance out as strongly as any of them" - Weather With You's co-trainer Andrew Forsman.
"What we are confident about is that Astoria has had a terrific grounding to be running well at the 2500-metres, not only off a 2200-metre run last start, but he's had plenty of racing this preparation - Astoria's trainer James Cummings.
AAMI Victoria Derby Runner by Runner Guide
Reported by TAB Updates: Thursday, 02 Nov 2017, 12:00
Runner-by-runner guide to the AAMI Victoria Derby.
Saturday 4 November, Flemington Races, Race 7 at 5:50pm (NZ), A$1,500,000 2500m
1 ACE HIGH
Barrier: 3 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: David Payne (Rosehill) Jockey: Tye Angland
Odds: $5.50 & $2.10
Incredibly tough front-runner who enters this off gritty wins in the Gloaming and Spring Champion. Will be right in the finish but the Derby doesn't typically suit front-runners and he will be in front a long way out.
Barrier: 11 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Chris Waller (Flemington) Jockey: Blake Shinn
Odds: $7.00 & $2.50
Had the last shot in the Spring Champion but couldn't get past Ace High and then was no match for Cliff's Edge in the Norman Robinson. Not sure he is brilliant enough.
Barrier: 1 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: James Cummings (Flemington) Jockey: Damian Lane
Odds: $9.00 & $3.00
Rattled home in the Geelong Classic when settling further back than normal. He ran some cracking sectionals. Probably a mark against though that Hugh Bowman has jumped off.
Barrier: 5 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Hayes/Dabernig (Flemington) Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
Odds: $21 & $5.00
Can't have on his form this preparation. Well beaten in the UCI Stakes and the Norman Robinson. Has come along a path not great for Derby runners. Pass.
5 MAIN STAGE
Barrier: 14 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Busuttin/Young (Cranbourne) Jockey: Michael Walker
Odds: $6.50 & $2.35
Equal favourite who has never finished further back than third. Was massive running down Cliff's Edge in the UCI Stakes but didn't fire a shot in the Norman Robinson. There was a big leader bias that day so possible forgive but others appeal more.
Barrier: 15 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Busuttin/Young (Cranbourne) Jockey: Hugh Bowman
Odds: $8.50 & $2.85
Busuttin and Young seemingly have a mortgage on this race and Sully looks the pick of their four. Won over 1400m and 1600m earlier this prep so can show a turn of foot. Ran a cracker last start in the Spring Champion. Hugh Bowman goes aboard. Wide barrier shouldn't be an issue.
7 WEATHER WITH YOU
Barrier: 2 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Murray Baker & Andrew Forsman (Cambridge (NZ)) Jockey: Mark Zahra
Odds: $7.00 & $2.50
Led them a merry dance in the Geelong Classic but that isn't a race that typically provides many Derby winners. Will be challenged by Ace High up front so won't get an easy run. Happy to lay.
Barrier: 13 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Matt Laurie (Mornington) Jockey: Ben Melham
Odds: $41 & $9.00
Been racing in decent form, finishing fourth or fifth at his last four starts. Hasn't really shown enough though. Look to be better chances.
Barrier: 10 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Robbie Laing (Cranbourne) Jockey: Noel Callow
Odds: $31 & $7.00
Has snuck under the radar in Adelaide, running a decent sixth in the Hill Smith two starts back. Was huge odds in the Vase when running fourth. Noel Callow knows how to lift them over the line.
10 JUSTICE FAITH
Barrier: 16 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Hayes/Dabernig (Flemington) Jockey: Craig Williams
Odds: $34 & $7.50
Well backed to win his maiden at Kyneton two starts back. Never looked likely in the Geelong Classic. Looks outclassed.
11 OCEAN'S FOURTEEN
Barrier: 7 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Aaron Purcell (Caulfield) Jockey: Luke Nolen
Odds: $13 & $3.75
Very interesting runner from the Aaron Purcell yard. Only had three starts. Hard to win a Derby at first preparation but bolted in at Donald when up to a mile two starts back and just missed out in the Geelong Classic. The best hope out of that lead-in.
Barrier: 9 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Matt Cumani (Ballarat) Jockey: Jordan Childs
Odds: $10 & $3.10
Untried above BM64 grade but has looked good racing around the bush. Enters this off a 4L win at Seymour. Races forward, which won't help, but not without a show at big odds.
13 JOHNNY VINKO
Barrier: 4 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Busuttin/Young (Cranbourne) Jockey: Stephen Baster
Odds: $26 & $6.00
Was ordinary in the Geelong Classic on a slow track but was beaten just 2L by Main Stage and Cliff's Edge in the UCI Stakes. Needs a good track but another long shot in with a chance.
14 NOTHING TOO HARD
Barrier: 12 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Paul Perry (Newcastle) Jockey: Beau Mertens (a)
Odds: $126 & $26
A 10-start maiden who hasn't shown nearly enough. Couldn't win a 2330m BM60 affair in Newcastle two starts back. Ordinary in the Geelong Classic. No.
Barrier: 8 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Tony McEvoy (Flemington) Jockey: John Allen
Odds: $51 & $11
Won a Gawler maiden over 2100m two starts back but only made minimal ground late in the Geelong Classic from last. Can't make an argument for.
16 WOLFE TONE
Barrier: 17 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Francis Finnegan (Cranbourne) Jockey: Jye McNeil
Odds: $126 & $26
Beaten over 10L in the AAMI Vase. A maiden. Drawn the car park.
Barrier: 6 Weight: 55.5 Trainer: Busuttin/Young (Cranbourne) Jockey:
Odds: $101 & $21
Emergency. Must respect the stable. Ran home well at Mildura and Mornington at last two so the trip should suit. Not the worst. "He puts in every time and he's got a bit of class about him" - Ace High's jockey Tye Angland.
More information at TAB