Auckland advertising executive Blair Alexander wasn't sure what to think when Te Akau Thoroughbreds principal David Ellis approached him after the 2015 Ready To Run sales at Karaka.
He does now.
Ellis suggested Alexander might like to syndicate the colt that became Derby fancy Gingernuts, which Ellis purchased for $42,500.
That syndication took a massive leap forward when Gingernuts scored a remarkable last-to-first win in the $100,000 Avondale Guineas at Ellerslie two weeks ago.
Alexander: "There were about 25 people in the Ellerslie stand when the horse missed the start by five lengths. I would guess half of them had not been to the races before. Every time George Simon went through the field he'd say: 'and Gingernuts is last' and people would snigger. We were just hoping he would pass a couple of horses and not finish last." Gingernuts surprised not just his owners when he stormed through on the inside of the entire field to win going away.
"You couldn't believe the reaction from the group. There were screams, whistling, tears, everything - you just couldn't imagine the scene.
"Some of them got a fair bit off the punt and at $31 ($27 on fixed odds) that's no surprise. I'm pretty popular at work at the moment." There might be more imbibing and celebrations after the country's richest non-restricted race today. Co-trainer Stephen Autridge is delighted with Gingernuts.
"His work since that win has been been excellent. He seems more confident and he's done nothing but improve. We couldn't be happier from our end."
There should not be an issue with Gingernuts stepping up to 2400m - his dam sire is the 1991 English Derby winner Generous.
He will be ridden by the Opie Bosson, who copped a five-meeting suspension at Te Rapa on Wednesday and is now out of the Auckland Cup meeting on Saturday week.
Matt Cameron will be on the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman prepared Jon Snow.
If training partners Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman don't walk away with the first prize in today's $1 million Vodafone Derby they can't say they haven't been on a winner - five runners in New Zealand's richest open race.
Camino Rocoso, Highlad, Jon Snow , Mongolian Wolf and Mongolian Legend will represent that partnership and here are Forsman's thoughts on each:
Highlad: "He was a touch disappointing last start in the Avondale Guineas and his effort before that was below his best as well. He's been playing around in his races and he's had the blinkers on, then off and now back on again, so we're hoping that will work some improvement. His work this week has been right back up to his best again."
Jon Snow: "I suppose you have to be concerned that's he's not the type to run 2400m, but he is a 3-year-old racing against his own age. His Herbie Dyke run was better than it looked, he got held up then he ran on again late. He's drawn nicely and he should get the perfect trip. We're hoping he can round it off."
Camino Rocoso: "He was unplaced in the Avondale Guineas, but the track conditions played a big part in that race. His work since then has been very good and he's improved with the outing. The better track this time is a big help. He ticks the pedigree and class boxes and the only thing that could bring him undone is his ringcraft."
Mongolian Wolf: "He has the temperament and pedigree to run a trip like this. He is not without ability as well."
Mongolian Legend: "He is a colt with a lot of ability that in the perfect world he would be a gelding, but there is nothing we can do about that at the moment. He has the ability to win, but there is a question mark over his racing manners."
Savile Row will go around as the Derby favourite and the best emerging type is Excalibur. Trainer Shaune Ritchie is more than happy with his chance. "I feel he's the biggest improver in the field. He's come right at the ideal time." Stablemate Redeem The Dream finished fourth in the Avondale Guineas and is a place hope.