Trainers John O’Shea and Mick Price will be hoping a recent trend continues in Saturday’s Victoria Derby (2500m) as they are the two most high profile handlers, with runners, who’ve not before won the Group 1 Classic at Flemington.
That trend is that the past five Victoria Derbys have gone to trainers claiming the race for the first time. Price saddles up the race favourite Tarzino while O’Shea, who now oversees Godolphin’s Australian training operation, is represented by Shards and Etymology.
The Derby, somewhat surprisingly, has also eluded Sheik Mohammed’s team. It is one of six races, including four Group 1’s, being simulcast from Melbourne on Saturday.
“I’ve had a second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth (in the race),” Price lamented of his previous Derby experiences. However, his 2015 hope has turned in eye-catching performances at his past two starts and should be hard to beat, with Craig Newitt in the saddle, on Saturday.
“I’m happy with the horse, happy with the barrier and we’ve just got to let it unfold now,” Price said after Tarzino, who settles back in his races, drew gate ten, ‘I know I’m pretty happy with the horse. Physically he’s the right horse to win a Derby.’
O’Shea’s pair drew either side of the favourite with Etymology in gate nine and Shards drawn 11. “I expect both my horses to run very well in a race the whole team would dearly love to win. I don’t worry myself too much about barriers. The horses are fine and that’s the main thing,” O’Shea said.
James McDonald, who rode both horses last start, has opted for Etymology which leaves Cox Plate winning jockey Hugh Bowman to partner Shards and that may well be a plus for the son of Medaglia D’Oro who backs up from his front-running second in the G 2 Vase (2040m) at Moonee Valley last Saturday.
O’Shea, who took over at Godolphin Australian last year and who enjoyed a stellar Epsom Handicap day this year with five winners on 3 October, will play a major role in Saturday’s action. Aside from his Derby contenders he has the highly regarded Coolmore Stud Stakes favourite Exosphere who chases a fourth successive win and he expects an improved performance from Contributer in the Mackinnon Stakes. “I think his last run was better than most people think,” O’Shea said of Contributer’s Caulfield Stakes (G1 2000m) fifth.
The French trained Gailo Chop backs up from his midfield finish in last Saturday’s Cox Plate (G1 2040m) to run in the Mackinnon. His appearance adds to the cosmopolitan flavour of the day as does that of the Andreas Wohler trained Magic Artist in the same race; Singapore’s Super One in the Coolmore and the Saeed bin Surroor trained Elhaame in the Lexus Stakes. Elhaame must win the Lexus Stakes in order to be guaranteed of a place in next Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup day.