Wow, what a race the $750,000 TV3 New Zealand Derby is going to be.

As exciting as Saturday's Avondale Guineas at Ellerslie proved - and it was spectacular - it was merely a lead-up to the big one and that's not attempting to downgrade the race.

We all knew this was going to define Derby favouritism and yet the Mongolian Khan first, Volkstok'n'barrell third result brought up, in the minds of some, a surprise reaction from the TAB.

The agency's bookmakers quickly promoted Mongolian Khan to Derby favouritism even though Volkstok'n'barrell's performance was at least as good.


It's difficult to analyse this race without giving the impression of wanting to downgrade the performance of Mongolian Khan - you can't, he is the perfect racehorse with perfect manners and Opie Bosson is the perfect rider to take advantage of the perfect storm set of circumstances that developed.

Mongolian Khan is as magnificent as the way Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman have developed his staying potential and as stunning as the astute eye of Cambridge horseman Graeme Forbes to pluck the handsome colt from the Karaka ring for $220,000 for his bosses.

Opie Bosson played a massive part in this victory for the Inner Mongolian Rider Horse Industry owners. Bosson knew Volkstok'n'barrell had ended up at the back of the field from his wide draw and that if he took Mongolian Khan forward to lead mid-race he would create a situation where Volkstok'n'barrell had to make up at least 12 lengths from the 500m and almost certainly have to go wide to accomplish it.

Clever race-winning tactics. The result was predictable from the 1000m. The job facing Volkstok'n'barrell on the home turn was impossible. He made it slightly worse himself when he ducked in when Matt Cameron first asked him to sprint, but once into top gear he was spectacular.

When Cameron asked Volkstok'n'barrell for the overdrive he attempted to take strides no horse is capable of. His reach and grab for the ground is remarkable. It propelled him into third, 2.1 lengths from Mongolian Khan.

If this was an experiment to determine whether Volkstok'n'barrell could stay - this was his first past 1600m - it was entirely successful. It certainly wasn't the 2100m that beat him, he was still making ground at the finish.

As our champion jockey Matt Cameron rarely gets excited - as he dismounted on Saturday he could barely contain himself.

"That's better than any of his wins," he said almost breathlessly.

"He's a very good stayer," Baker said in his usual understated way. "He's had three starts past 1600m and won them all. He's a lovely animal. Not many horses can make two runs in a race and still win."

Inner Mongolian Rider Horse boss Lang Lin was at Ellerslie to see Mongolian Khan for the first time after arriving in New Zealand unexpectedly on Friday. Through an interpreter in the Winners' Circle hospitality room he quickly donated $2000 to the fund the Auckland Racing Club is attempting to build to $60,000 by Diamond Stakes day to erect a new Ronald McDonald family room at Starship.

The Derby barrier draw will be crucial, despite the long run down the home straight from the 2400m start.

Matt Cameron was happy to put a lot of pressure on his shoulders when he said as he took the saddle off Volkstok'n'barrell: "We'll win the Derby for fun."

TAB fixed odds yesterday: $3 Mongolian Khan, $3.20 Volkstok'n'barrell.