Racing: Taunts fly before Victoria Derby

By Mike Dillon

San Diego looks suited to the Derby distance and his No 6 barrier has a lot of appeal. Photo / Getty Images
San Diego looks suited to the Derby distance and his No 6 barrier has a lot of appeal. Photo / Getty Images

There was a time when Melbourne versus Sydney horse-racing rivalry fell just short of throwing rocks.

Times have changed, but not totally.

Today's A$1.5 million ($1.7 million) Victoria Derby brought feelings to the surface in Melbourne yesterday.

Sydney's John O'Shea, never shy of letting a few words go, got on the front foot declaring the Randwick Spring Champion Stakes form around his Derby favourite Savvy Nature superior to that of Melbourne's Norman Robinson, through which one of the main rivals, Polanski, came.

Polanski's trainer Robbie Laing volleyed the ball back with plenty of interest attached.

Laing was quick to point out that the supposedly strong Spring Champion form saw Derby second favourite Complacent in front of Savvy Nature by little more than one length.

Savvy Nature subsequently went to Moonee Valley last weekend and easily won the Vase.

"That horse he [Savvy Nature] beat [All Rigged Up] was beaten at Murtoa and Avoca at his previous starts." For New Zealanders, read Hokitika and Gore for those two tracks - and that's a flatter.

Most of the opposition have rich heritage backgrounds and Laing is proud that he picked up Polanski for A$4000.

As it should be, this is a fascinating Derby, made particularly so this year by the barrier draws. Savvy Nature will jump from gate 11, Complacent from 14 and $10 chance Criterion from 12. James McDonald's thoughts overnight would be interesting.

In last year's Derby he was on easily the best horse in It's A Dundeel and went back to the rear. The field strung out remarkably and by the 700m It's A Dundeel was so far off the leaders his chances were nil.

It's A Dundeel made a lot of ground, ran the fastest last 600m in the field and could finish only seventh to $41 outsider Fiveandahalfstar.

Memories of that shock result will play heavily on McDonald's thinking about what to do with Savvy Nature this time.

The 2500m start is close to the bend out of the home straight and barriers are a nightmare. Obviously McDonald is not declaring what his intentions are for when the barriers open.

The same problem faces Kerrin McEvoy on Complacent, who has for the past week shared see-sawing Derby favouritism with Savvy Nature.

Last night in Melbourne Savvy Nature retained his betting spot at the top of the market at $4.60, with Complacent at $5.

For all of It's A Dundeel's problems last year and many beaten performances from wide gates, history tells an interesting story.

In the past 31 years, 12 winners have drawn gates wider than No10.

One month ago the Snowden stable was declaring San Diego its main Derby chance.

He is solidly in the market at $8 and the fact that his Godolphin stablemate Complacent is much shorter is due as much to the latter's recent winning treble and San Diego's formline of 362.

For all that, San Diego is a lovely type who looks suited to the Derby distance and his No6 barrier has a lot of appeal.

Last year's Derby will almost certainly influence James McDonald's early tactics on Savvy Nature.

So will his trainer John O'Shea's words: "There's a long tail in this field and we don't want to get too far back."

That's early pressure for the champion New Zealand jockey to try to find an economical passage and food for thought for those who think jockeys get it too easy.

The racing world will be focused on McDonald's every breath at 5pm today.

A mare descended from a Melbourne Cup winner will get a final chance to earn her place in Tuesday's elite field when she tackles the Lexus Stakes at Flemington today.

The Nigel Blackiston-trained Let's Make Adeal is a grand-daughter of 1991 Melbourne Cup winner Let's Elope.

She will take her place in the 2500m feature with the winner earning automatic entry into the Cup.

At her last start in the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield, Let's Make Adeal stumbled as she went past the winning post the first time, was blocked for a run late in the race and was galloped on by a rival runner, finishing with bloody battle scars on her back legs. Despite all that, she finished just over a length behind winner Sea Moon.

Blackiston said that while Let's Make Adeal needed some stitches after that encounter she missed only two days of work.

"On that run, and the way she has worked since, we're very happy going into the race but, unfortunately, we're not blessed with the number 14 barrier.

"If we get to the Cup this year it's meant to be. If not, we won't panic, we'll try again next year."

Since Blackiston took over as the mare's trainer this year, Let's Make Adeal has raced eight times.

She has won twice and never finished out of the top four, including a fourth in the Makybe Diva Stakes won by Foreteller. Blackiston has close links with Let's Elope, having been part of the Cummings stable in Melbourne when the mare was racing.

He said Let's Make Adeal reminded him a lot of the great mare. "She's big, she's strong, she has a beautiful head and she has all the attributes."

Let's Make Adeal is second favourite for the Lexus at $7 behind Araldo at $4.40.AAP

- NZ Herald

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