Trainer Chris Waller is tipped to take out the Group 1 $2 million Victoria Derby (2500m) for a third time with the master horseman saddling-up Saturday’s favourite Riff Rocket.
Waller won the VRC Derby in 2014 with Preferment and was also successful in the feature race on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival last year with Manzoice.
On Saturday he has his consistent American Pharoah gelding Riff Rocket jumping from a favourable barrier five draw with the talented James McDonald retaining the ride.
McDonald has ridden the horse for his two latest starts when a 5.5 length winner at the track in the Listed Super Impose Stakes (1800m) before a narrow loss as the beaten odds-on favourite in the Group 1 Caulfield Classic (2000m) on October 21.
Back at Flemington now and fitter for his first Group assignment the up-and-comer is expected to relish the extra distance and sits top of Victoria Derby betting at $2.45 and firming at Ladbrokes.
Close second favourite at current Victoria Derby odds of $3.90 is the Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Apulia also drawn well in barrier three.
J Mac and Mark Zahra will partner Gold Trip and Without A Fight respectively as two of the best backed stayers in next Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup field and could also be fighting out the finish in the Derby.
Zahra partners Fiorente colt Apulia who is bred to stay being a son of a former Melbourne Cup winner and who brings in the confidence of a last start win.
After an eighth to Riff Rocket in the Super Impose the galloper finished fourth in the Caulfield Classic and then raced again when showing his class with a two length Group 2 Moonee Valley Vase (2040m) win last Saturday.
He now races for the third straight Saturday and is rock hard fit for his grand final.
Despite a capacity VRC Derby field just one other runner is at single-figures for the win with Verdad at $7.50 in gate four with Jye McNeil in the saddle.
Untapped Justify gelding Verdad is trained out of Cranbourne by Robbie Griffiths & Mathew de Kock and is after his second win at career start number five.
He is a dual Group 2 runner-up having finished second best in the Group 2 Stutt Stakes and Group 2 Vase with a credible sixth at a big price to Griff in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) in between.
Others at a more generous quote but still being kept relatively safe in the markets include the Andrew Gluyas-trained Air Assault ($14) and the upset Caulfield Classic winner Sunsets ($14) for Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young out in gate 16.
The Penfolds Victoria Derby is set to run as Flemington Race 7 at 4:20pm (AEDT) on Saturday’s nine-race, all-Group event program.
2023 Victoria Derby Field & Barriers
|No||Last 10||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Probable Weight||Penalty||Hcp Rating|
|1||242×12841||APULIA||Ben, Will & JD Hayes||Mark Zahra||3||57kg||88|
|2||1262||VERDAD||Robbie Griffiths & Mathew de Kock||Jye McNeil||4||57kg||76|
|3||x6551x4413||AIR ASSAULT||Andrew Gluyas||Ben Allen||6||57kg||74|
|4||17×1212||RIFF ROCKET||Chris Waller||James McDonald||5||57kg||80|
|5||4×5251241||SUNSETS||Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young||John Allen||16||57kg||80|
|6||2569×80772||MAKE A CALL||Peter & Paul Snowden||Ms Jamie Kah||15||57kg||64|
|7||23116||GOLD BULLION (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Opie Bosson||13||57kg||70|
|8||78×13||GATES||Peter G Moody & Katherine Coleman||Luke Nolen||14||57kg||70|
|9||1203||KOSGEI||Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young||Blake Shinn||12||57kg||64|
|10||01054||BULAWAYO||Pat Carey & Harris Walker||Ms Celine Gaudray (a)||7||57kg||63|
|11||3×4214||SACRED EAGLE||Symon Wilde||Jordan Childs||2||57kg||63|
|12||7×4311||ROGUERY||Lloyd Kennewell & Lucy Yeomans||Billy Egan||1||57kg||66|
|13||9612||MERCANTE||Nigel Blackiston||Damien Oliver||11||57kg||63|
|14||417||TO BE FRANK (NZ)||Ciaron Maher & David Eustace||Jamie Spencer||10||57kg||63|
|15||24431||WARIALDA WARRIOR||John Ramsey||Darryl McLellan||9||57kg||60|
|16||5×32525||TOKYO RUN (NZ)||Dean Mirfin||8||57kg||59|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.