Lance O'Sullivan's confidence in Rocket Spade's prospects for Australia's richest staying classic hasn't been bolstered by the Australian performances of the pair that trailed him home in the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m).
Rocket Spade is on the third line of betting for the A$2 million Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday after beating Milford by a short neck in the New Zealand Derby, with Frontman a further short head back in third.
But in their races since the New Zealand Derby, Milford and Frontman – who races as The Frontman when in Australia – disappointed when finishing well held eighth-placings in their Australian debuts, Milford in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and The Frontman in the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m).
"If they had been running close-up it would have given us a lot more encouragement," said O'Sullivan, who trains Rocket Spade in partnership with Andrew Scott.
"Whether they've had good runs into the race or not I'm not too sure. Certainly, from our point of view it is a little bit disconcerting, but we won't know for sure until the race."
One thing that might help is that Rocket Spade hasn't usually won by large margins.
"You don't know until they come up against the best, but he is a colt and he does tend to win his races by small margins, barring his last start. He's one of those horses that is in for the fight."
O'Sullivan and Scott took a different path than usual to the Australian Derby, opting to run their colt in a 1600m three-year-old race at Tauranga, a race he won easily.
"It was just a run to fit in with his programme," O'Sullivan said. "The result was of little consequence but it was certainly encouraging what he did and the way he did it. It showed that he's still wanting to gallop.
"He travelled well to Sydney on Monday and ate up very well on Tuesday night."
Also in Sydney for the O'Sullivan-Scott team is veteran stayer Sir Charles Road, who runs on Saturday in the Group 2 Chairman's Quality (2600m), a race he won three years ago.
Sir Charles Road put up his best performance in some time when finishing second in the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) on March 13, and O'Sullivan said he was in good order.
All going well, Sir Charles Road will be back at Randwick the following week for the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m), looking to improve on the third-place finish he recorded in that race in 2018.
Meanwhile, the stable's leading filly Force of Will is heading to Queensland after finishing sixth in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill last Saturday.
She is likely to revert to 1600m, the distance at which she won the Group 3 Desert Gold Stakes in January, for the Listed Princess Stakes at Doomben on April 24.
Options after that include the Listed Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m) on May 8, the Group 2 Roses (2000m) on May 22 and Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2200m) on June 5.
- NZ Racing Desk