Racing: Kiwis again have the sacred elixir

By Tim Barton

Sacred Elixir is a $3 Derby favourite. Picture / Getty Images
Sacred Elixir is a $3 Derby favourite. Picture / Getty Images

Another day, another dollar, another Derby?

It's never as easy as that but the Kiwis will have recent history, as well as form, on their side in the A$1.5 million Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on Saturday.

Sacred Elixir, who will start favourite, and Highlad will attempt to improve a wonderful run for New Zealand-trained horses in the two premier Derby races in Australia.

New Zealand horses have been less prominent in the likes of the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups over the last decade but have been plundering the Australian classics.

Since 2008, New Zealand-trained horses have won the Australian Derby four times (Tavago, Mongolian Khan, Dundeel and Nom du Jeu) and the Victoria Derby three times (Sangster, Lion Tamer and Monaco Consul).

Remarkably, six of those horses were trained at Cambridge, as are Sacred Elixir and Highlad.

In addition, the Kiwis have had three wins in the Australian Oaks over the same period.

Seven of the last 10 Victoria Derby winners were also bred in New Zealand, although the breeding industry will be depending on Sacred Elixir on Saturday, as he is the only New Zealand-bred assured of a start.

That solitary runner might be enough as Sacred Elixir will have most things in his favour as he attempts to cap a programme set out for him in January. "After he ran so well in the Karaka Million, we set two targets for him - the [Group One] Atkins in Brisbane, and the Victoria Derby," trainer Tony Pike said.

Sacred Elixir was a hugely impressive winner of the 1600m Atkins in June and was a $3 favourite for the Derby in final field betting on the NZ TAB, after drawing the inside barrier.

"We haven't won the Derby yet but it looks like we are going to get him there and in good form," Pike said.

Sacred Elixir has won five of his nine starts, including two group wins in Melbourne this spring. His one failure in his current campaign came in the Group One Caulfield Guineas, when little went right after he became stirred up before the start.

He raced without blinkers in the Moonee Valley Vase last weekend, settled well and won with comparative ease in his first run past 1600m.

He has to back up this weekend but all the signs are that he has coped well with the Moonee Valley run, with the track conditions ensuring that there was no danger of the horse jarring up.

"The soft track [at Moonee Valley] probably helped and he pulled up in super condition," Pike said.

"He has been eating well through the week and is nice and bright. [Stable represntative] Kade [Ormsby] has been with him all the way through and said the horse was moving fantastically. A good track on Saturday wouldn't worry him either."

Sacred Elixir, who will be ridden by top Hong Kong-based rider Zac Purton, will also be suited by the roomy Flemington track and has the look and pedigree of a stayer.

"He's still got plenty of filling out to do but he's a big imposing horse and probably hitting 17 hands," Pike added.

"He has always given the impression that he would stay."

A $170,000 yearling buy, Sacred Elixir is from the first southern hemisphere crop left by Epsom Derby winner Pour Moi.

He is a great-grandson of Horlicks and his second dam is by Zabeel. Horlicks won the Japan Cup and is the dam of Melbourne Cup winner Brew.

Sacred Elixir is owned by Raffles Racing, an international racing enterprise headed by Malaysian businessman Dato Yap Kim San.

The association between Pike and Raffles has been rewarding for both parties and Pike has prepared five individual Group One winners - Sacred Falls, Sacred Star, Rock Diva, More Than Sacred and Sacred Elixir - in the Raffles colours in the last four years.

The luck of the draw again went against Highlad, who will start from 12, in a 16-horse field, if the emergencies come out. It is the third wide barrier for Highlad in as many starts in Melbourne and likely to make his task more difficult. Craig Williams has replaced the suspended Damien Oliver on Highlad.

- NZ Herald

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