Racing: Kiwis line up to grab A$2m Derby

By Mike Dillon

Damian Lane and Jon Snow sprint clear of the field in the Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday. Photo / AAP
Damian Lane and Jon Snow sprint clear of the field in the Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday. Photo / AAP

There is a statistic around our 3-year-olds worth considering.

New Zealand-bred and New Zealand-trained gallopers have won the last four Australian Derbies, the last three Australian Oaks, five of the last seven Queensland Oaks, and five of the last eight Victoria Derbies.

That is a sensational stat and the Sydney winning performances of Gingernuts and Jon Snow in the last two Saturdays suggest that might be added to in this weekend's A$2 million Australian Derby at Randwick.

Jon Snow's runaway A$200,000 Tulloch Stakes victory at Rosehill on Saturday put him right in the Derby frame alongside Gingernuts, who made them look ordinary in heavy ground seven days earlier in the Rosehill Guineas.

There are countless examples of 3-year-olds that improve dramatically from January 1 - from Bonecrusher forward - but the benchmark will always be Gingernuts who came off a fourth in a one-win race at Stratford - something that could have you staring at the back gate, to winning the Avondale Guineas, $1 million Vodafone Derby and Rosehill Guineas.

But is has to be said Jon Snow has taken a quantum leap going into his Saturday victory. His form in New Zealand was never below standard - he finished second to Mongolian Falcon in the Hawke's Bay Guineas, was beaten a nose and a long head by Hall Of Fame in the $225,000 Levin Classic and by a nose and a head by Volpe Veloce and Heroic Valour in the $250,000 Karaka 3YO Mile before his brave third to Gingernuts in the Vodafone Derby.

But in each of those races he tended to race very dour late.

In short he was grinding.

Enter the new Jon Snow on Saturday. Damian Lane kept him tracking the leader and when they rounded the home bend you thought Jon Snow might just grind home better than the rest in his Australian debut.

Instead he sprinted clear with a dash he previously had been unable to muster and won with a bit left with his ears pricked. Given the runner-up was A$1.5 million Victoria Derby winner Prized Icon it was a sparkling performance.

"Yes, he's got a lot stronger," said co-trainer Murray Baker yesterday. "He's developing all the time."

Without being able to be described as weak, Jon Snow is far from robust and was probably always suspect to improvement.

"He was never beaten by more than a neck in those last three stakes races," said Baker. "We thought enough of him to fly Opie Bosson back from Hong Kong to ride him in the 2000 Guineas, but things went wrong in that race."

Although it's early, reports from Sydney yesterday morning suggest Jon Snow has come through Saturday's win in good shape, which you would expect with the ease of the accomplishment.

"He will go forward to the Derby on Saturday and Damian Lane will ride him again. His dam is by O'Reilly and his granddam by Zabeel, so he should run the 2400m."

This was the fourth time Baker has won the Tulloch Stakes. "And I finished second in it with Rios. I may have had other runners, but I don't think so."

Prized Icon was completely unable to handle the fetlock-deep track when 17 lengths behind Gingernuts in 10th place in the Rosehill Guineas. Although the footing this time was sticky and testing, some horses could handle it and Prized Icon was one of them.

His Derby chances will depend on the Randwick footing this Saturday.

Sydney's weather has been wet for two weeks and their autumn rainfall is rarely far away. Randwick does not handle water as well as Rosehill and close to a fine week will be required to produce a firm surface.

The Baker/Forsman stable has a rising superstar on its hands with the unbeaten Let Me Roar, a dashing winner at Tauranga on Saturday.

There was some nervousness in the camp with the 4-year-old mare having not raced since May last year and having missed a barrier trial through a mishap.

The co-trainers need not have worried. Under Jason Waddell, Let Me Roar tracked the leaders to the home bend and worked away to win by a margin untested.

"She is outstanding," said Waddell. Being by Rip Van Winkle from a mare by English Derby winner Generous, she should get much better when she gets up over a middle distance.

Meanwhile, last year's Australian Derby winner, Tavago, suffered a suspensory injury in tailing the field in Saturday's BMW requiring a spell.

- NZ Herald

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