Racing: Flying filly Habibi superb in NZ Derby

Habibi ridden by Vinnie Colgan wins the $750,000 TV3 New Zealand Derby ahead of Fix.  Photo / Richard Robinson
Habibi ridden by Vinnie Colgan wins the $750,000 TV3 New Zealand Derby ahead of Fix. Photo / Richard Robinson

Unwavering faith by all involved had its reward at Ellerslie yesterday when the favourite, Habibi, won the $750,000 TV3 New Zealand Derby after a thrilling home straight fight with fellow filly Fix.

Co-trainer Dean Logan described the build-up to the country's richest classic as "so uncomplicated, I've felt more pressure before a Ruakaka maiden".

Co-owner and breeder Heather Crofskey said that all week, while she may not have been as confident as punters who made the Ekraar filly a $2.80 favourite, she was "peaceful".

And Vinnie Colgan, the jockey who now holds a modern-day Derby record of five wins, said he had never felt that he had made the wrong decision in opting for Habibi ahead of another of his regular quality mounts, Fix.

At the line, half a length separated the two fillies, with a length and a half to second favourite Castlzeberg, who, as anticipated, ensured the race was truly run by setting a solid gallop.

Colgan's only concern came early in the race, but the rest, as he said, was easy.

"She jumped well but kind of baulked, lost a bit of momentum across the junction. I thought I'd have been maybe a spot closer but where I ended up was the next best thing.

"We got a lovely run on the fence and when it came time to get off, I could see Fix ahead of me and I knew she would be the one to follow.

"She felt good all the way, really strong the last bit, but to her credit the other filly didn't make it easy. They're two very good fillies."

Kevin Gray's hopes of further New Zealand Oaks success were boosted at Hastings where High Fashion made a bold classic statement.

The Palmerston North trainer won the Group One feature with the Waikato Stud-bred and owned Legs in 2006 and his hopes are pinned this time on another graduate of the Matamata nursery.

High Fashion was a dominant winner of yesterday's group three Bruce Perry Bloodstock Lowland Stakes with the daughter of O'Reilly ironically accounting for the Chittick family's Chandelier, also by the stud's champion resident sire, as is third placegetter Emerald Queen.

"I think the further they go, the better she will be," Gray said. "She's a very good filly and I'm lucky to have her in my stable."

Winner of the group three Tiger Prawn Desert Gold Stakes at Trentham two runs back, High Fashion was again partnered by former stable apprentice Hayden Tinsley who gave Gray a few anxious moments early in the race.

"I was a little bit worried when she was so far back and that wasn't really the plan but Hayden knows what he's doing," he said.

High Fashion was among the tailenders down the back before making a rapid move across the top to be in contention on straightening. She was driven clear 200 metres from home to win by a couple of lengths.

- Herald on Sunday

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