Australian three-year-old Rising Red will be on trial for the $1 million New Zealand Derby when he races at Sandown today.
Rising Red has opened as a $2.50 favourite for the benchmark 70 2100m at Sandown and a good run would confirm a start in the Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday week.
The Redwood gelding, who races in the same colours as Rising Romance, has had a win and four seconds from seven starts. He is trained by Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young, who transferred their team from Cambridge to Cranbourne last year.
"He's probably under the odds a bit at $2.50, because he's up against some tough older horses [at Sandown]," Busuttin said. "But we are definitely looking at the [NZ] Derby and if he goes a good race and finishes in the top four, he will probably go over."
Rising Red was having his first run for seven weeks when he finished a luckless second over 1600m at Moonee Valley on February 10. He had to come from eighth at the 400m and was beaten a long neck by Farson in a benchmark 70 three-year-old race. "He got held up and should have won," Busuttin said.
"He has to run well this week before we finalise plans and it will be all over if he doesn't perform [at Sandown] but we have always had the Derby in mind," Busuttin said.
"He's not a superstar but he will run 2400m, a wet track wouldn't worry him and it's a million dollar race. He's an improving horse and I could see him running in the top five [at Ellerslie].
"We also nominated him for the Autumn Classic at Caulfield on Saturday, which is a A$200,000 three-year-old race over 1800m, but the Sandown race works better as a Derby leadup. The timing and the distance suit better.
"You have to take advantage of the good money for the three-year-olds when you can. He [Rising Red] can also run for A$2 million in the Australian Derby but he may not get any chances to run for $1 million as a four-year-old.
"There's no such thing as a bad Derby field and the Ellerslie field looks to be an even lineup," Busuttin said. "You couldn't knock Sacred Elixir though there must be a question mark as to whether he is at his best. Savile Row looks a good horse and Donna Logan and Murray Baker know how to win a Derby."
Busuttin has also shown he can prepare a horse to win a Derby and has an outstanding record with stayers overall.
He has won a Victoria Derby with Sangster and the 2016 Australian Derby with Tavago. Sangster also won an Auckland Cup and an Avondale Cup and Busuttin prepared Six O'clock News to win a Wellington Cup and a City Of Auckland Cup.
Tavago was put aside after two runs in the spring and will be resuming when he meets Winx and Hartnell in the weight-for-age Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on Saturday.
It will be the first step in a campaign aimed at the $2 million Sydney Cup (3200m) on April 8.
"He got a virus in the spring but he's good now," Busuttin said. "He's more mature and heavier now and finally able to hold his condition."
Rising Red was at $61 in the NZ Derby market yesterday but would shorten significantly if he runs well today.
If Rising Red does come to Ellerslie, it would mean either Excalibur or Mongolian Legend would be in danger of being on the Derby ballot.
Excalibur is 18th in order of re-entry, and in the field at this stage, with Mongolian Legend 19th, but the latter has been nominated for the rating 75 2000m at Matamata on Saturday.
If Mongolian Legend ran first or second at Matamata he would go ahead of Excalibur in the Derby entry order and would be equal with Excalibur, in terms of qualifying stake money, if he finished third.
Savile Row heads the Derby market at $4.50 with Sacred Elixir at $5 and late entry Gingernuts at $7.