Racing: Wise heads to guide Savile Row in $1m feature

By Mike Dillon

Savile Row's lead-up races resulted in a close second to Hall Of Fame. Photo / Supplied
Savile Row's lead-up races resulted in a close second to Hall Of Fame. Photo / Supplied

Pam Gerard might be fortunate to have the vastly experienced Mike Moroney as a training partner as she takes Savile Row into today's $1 million Vodafone Derby as favourite, but don't be under any illusion she hasn't done her job.

She has beautifully prepared the often quirky handsome colt, who will stand out in the Ellerslie back parade ring this afternoon.

Gerard is a highly competent horsewoman, but she lacks the top-end experience of Melbourne-based Mike Moroney, who has won this Derby three times with Great Command in 1996, Cut The Cake in 2003 and the outstanding Xcellent a year later.

Moroney, who arrived from Melbourne late yesterday, will learn a lot from the sometimes wayward Savile Row late today, but then he says he learned from each of his previous three winners.

"Great Command (ridden by Darren Beadman) was the best 3-year-old of his year, but in his final Derby lead-up he was beaten into second in the Avondale Guineas.

"I woke up that he had been too big in condition and I had to give it to him on the track to get him properly fit for 2400m. It worked.

"We knew Cut The Cake wasn't the best horse in the race, but we worked a plan and it came together." Xcellent was definitely the best horse of his year, but it all went wrong when he was hit with a relatively serious back problem early in the week leading up to race time.

"He didn't have a saddle on his back in the four days before the race, so that was a worrying time."

It mattered not, Xcellent produced a powerful finish that blew the opposition off the Ellerslie turf.

Everyone knows Xcellent was a fine racehorse, but for reasons that are often never able to be explained, for many his legacy does not quite match the truly remarkable ability he possessed.

No one, including his trainers, are quite sure how good Savile Row might become because in terms of maturity his brain has yet to catch up with his stunning physical shape.

In short, he is a mental baby who does whatever comes into his head during races. He has a tendency to lay into other horses - either side, he's not fussy - and Derbies are not the type of races you want to be doing that in.

After his gallop on Tuesday morning at Ellerslie he walked off the track like a horse that if you put a Swedish medicine ball in front of him he would have played with it for one hour in the birdcage.

"Yes, he's a big kid - he's a colt," says Moroney.

The job of managing that for Moroney and Gerard and owner Kevin Hickman goes to Matamata jockey Michael Coleman, who rode both Cut The Cake and Xcellent to Derby victory.

"It's up to Mickey now, we're lucky to have an experience rider on a horse that likes to wander [around]."

Savile Row's lead-up races resulted in a close second to Hall Of Fame at Trentham and another close finish to Volkstok'n'barrell in the $400,000 Herbie Dyke at Te Rapa.

"I believe he'd have won both of those if he'd gone straight," said Moroney.

It may sound strange, but Vinnie Colgan can thank a fully booked Singapore-bound flight for his opportunity to extend his wonderful New Zealand Derby record today..

Colgan is the most successful rider in New Zealand Derby history with six wins, but he was in jeopardy of having to sit out this year's feature after his original mount, Romancer, was withdrawn on Wednesday because of a hoof problem.

Within a few hours he had picked up the ride on the Shaune Ritchie-trained Redeem The Dream in the $1 million Derby, but it was a close call.

Top international rider Gerard Mosse had been approached by owner Dominic Li to ride Redeem The Dream.

"Dominic and Gerard are good friends and Gerard was okay to come over, but we couldn't get him on a flight back to Singapore for him to be back in time for his [riding] engagements on Sunday," Ritchie said. "There is a flight, but it's fully booked." At that stage apprentice Sam Weatherley looked set to be in the hot seat for the Derby, but when Colgan became available experience won out over youth.

- Additional reporting NZ Racing Desk

- NZ Herald

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