Racing: Triple Crown a step closer

By Mike Dillon

It's A Dundeel to emulate deeds of former champion Octagonal in Australian Derby.

It's A Dundeel makes the Rosehill Guineas field look second rate as he cruises to victory. Photo / Thinkstock
It's A Dundeel makes the Rosehill Guineas field look second rate as he cruises to victory. Photo / Thinkstock

So, Sydney jockey James McDonald says It's A Dundeel is the best horse he has sat on.

Co-trainer Murray Baker says he's at least as good as his previous best: The Phantom and Nom du Jeu.

Mark Du Plessis says Recite is the best filly he has ridden.

So all we need now is for Ruud Awakening to slide by them to become the first New Zealander to win the Golden Slipper at Rosehill next Saturday to completely establish what the Herald predicted five months ago, that this was going to be a remarkable year for New Zealand horses.

It doesn't come much more stylish than It's A Dundeel's A$500,000 Rosehill Guineas victory on Saturday. The official margin was close to seven lengths, which would have been wider had James McDonald not eased him getting ready to do a victory salute.

The margin may as well have been half an hour.

It looked potentially dangerous for the favourite on the first bend when Craig Newitt on Hvasstan tried to put It's A Dundeel back to the fence.

"It felt there for a while that everyone was against me," McDonald said. "As the $1.40 favourite they assuredly were against him.

"He relaxed and when I got him to the outside it was breathtaking. My bloke was clearly the best horse there today, but it would have been good if Fiveandahalfstar was there."

Fiveandahalfstar missed Saturday's race in favour of running in this Saturday's A$2.2 million BMW. It's A Dundeel will meet the Victoria Derby winner a week later in the Australian Derby.

After Saturday's runaway victory, It's A Dundeel is the $1.70 Derby favourite.

Murray Baker said there was no chance It's A Dundeel would back up in The BMW. "The Derby has been the goal all the way along and you can't win everything. We can look at taking on the older horses after the Derby."

Baker did not lack confidence pre-race, but had his anxious moments during it. "The girl who looks after him said he was flying but that was a brilliant win," he said. "When he was back second-last I thought 'jeez' but we know he's got that big sprint and he can sustain it. I think he was relaxed and he was off the fence which was the big thing for him.

"I didn't want him to get trapped on the fence where he had to stop and start."

Eremein and Corey Brown in 2005 and Sky Heights, ridden by Glen Boss in 1999 are the last two to win the Derby after winning the Rosehill Guineas.

You have to go back to a champion in Octagonal in 1996 to find another winner of all three legs of Sydney's triple crown.

On Saturday's performance only bad luck could prevent It's A Dundeel joining Octagonal.

Former New Zealand trainer Chris Waller watched the race and immediately took a change of direction for Sacred Falls.

"You don't see that happen very often, that was special," said a stunned Waller. "Sacred Falls can go to the Doncaster rather than the Derby, he's got the minimum weight in the Doncaster."

New Zealand jockey Leith Innes was happy with the way Sacred Falls found the line but conceded he was no match for the winner. "The winner was a long, long way from me."

As good as Recite is - and her unbeaten record shows she's fabulous - Ruud Awakening has always suggested she might be slightly better, despite the fact they haven't faced each other on raceday.

Particularly after Saturday's $225,000 The Oaks Stallions Manawatu Sires walk-in-the-park, you would not discount Recite as a Golden Slipper contender if she were heading that way instead of spelling.

Which makes Ruud Awakening New Zealand's best chance in years, probably since Our Maizcay, which former champion jockey Mick Dittman swears would have won with a decent barrier draw.

Her Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh is sensibly attempting to stay as far below the radar as possible, but it's no news that all is brilliantly well with Ruud Awakening.

A further positive after her Ellerslie win last start, is that Craig Williams will almost certainly be confirmed as the filly's Golden Slipper jockey.

Assail, under Williams, had to win Saturday's A$175,000 Magic Night Stakes at Rosehill to force herself into the Slipper, but failed to make the money.

What Ruud Awakening critically needs is a favourable barrier draw.

- NZ Herald

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