SummerReplay

This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on March 03, 2019

The ripped up betting slips would have left spread all over Ellerslie on Saturday as a Whanganui co-owned gelding got up to win the Vodafone Group 1 New Zealand Derby over 2400m.

Whanganui's Harvey Green and wife Linda, along with noted Wellington horse owner Lib Petagna, got to lift the derby prize after their $105 outsider Crown Prosecutor was ridden to the finishing post by jockey Craig Grylls in a huge upset.

"Going up there [on Saturday] our thoughts were we were just making up the numbers, said Harvey Green.

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"But if you analyse him, he got caught at the back in his previous starts, and in the last race he didn't run to plan. So he was [still] there or thereabouts."

Those two disappointments, since winning the Group 3 Wellington Stakes (1600m) back in November, had the TAB and punters turn away from Crown Prosecutor.

Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh was getting shorter odds for his other horse in the race in Vernanme, a place getter at the Group 2 Avondale Guineas.

Green said the entire field had not run the 2400m distance before, and while Crown Prosecutor was nervous for his first time on the Ellerslie track, coming into the right hand corner the first time he had to stay on the rail in traffic, which actually helped.

Favourite Surely Sacred settled well off the pace.

This time, Grylls was able to ride him to the plan, and suddenly the outsider was in with a real shot amongst the lead group of four.

"With about 800m to go, he was travelling really well. When he turned for home, I thought he'd have a chance for third or fourth," said Green.

"He stuck in really well and had great fight with the second place horse down the straight.

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"I turned around to my wife and said, 'we've just won the New Zealand Derby, and I couldn't figure out why no-one around us was cheering.

"At $105, no one had backed him."

Crown Prosecutor raced clear at the 300m mark to join leader In A Twinkling, whose jockey had been confident of hauling in the Grylls-ridden horse, but was surprised they just didn't have enough at the finish.

Green joked that perhaps the TAB itself could sponsor next year's NZ Derby and raise the prize money from all the cash they didn't have to pay out on Saturday.

Having raced and bred horse for 30 years, Green brought into Crown Prosecutor on a trip to Melbourne when he was recommended by an agent, going halves with Petagna.

Neither Grylls and Marsh could contain their emotions on Saturday.

"He had won a stakes race before, but his form wasn't the best coming in," said the jockey.

"He's been a little off the boil, but Stephen and his team have done a great job and I couldn't believe it.

"The plan was to go forward but he was green down the straight the first time as he tried to duck out a couple of times.

"Turning in he travelled up underneath me then he just kept grinding away and fought it out to the line."

Marsh got to emulate father Bruce, who won the 2000 NZ Derby with Hail.

"It just feels outstanding," he said.

"I know he was one of the roughies of the race and we know how hard it is to even have a horse in the derby.

"I don't usually get given colts to train and we have, so this is the race you want to win as it's the best race on the calendar.

"We had him hard fit ready and I said to Craig to go forward as he can out-tough them," Marsh said.

"He (Grylls) rode him perfectly as they went hard and he sat in behind them, so it was a great win."

Crown Prosecutor has now won two of his seven starts for $644,625 in stakes earnings. - Additional reporting by NZ Racing Desk