Kiwi trainer Murray Baker is normally thinking solely about derbies at the start of this week every year but while Saturday’s classic at Randwick is vaguely within reach, Baker’s mind has also turned to a race he has never attempted.
Baker has won five ATC Derbies and so he knows what it takes to win it, but he said from New Zealand on Tuesday that he is a Doncaster Handicap novice so goes into Saturday’s $3 million race unsure of where his three-year-old Aegon fits in.
“I am nearly certain I’ve never had a Doncaster runner before and it’s a very hard race and so he’ll probably be up against it,” Baker said.
“But he’s a very smart horse. He won his first five (starts) then we couldn’t work out what happened in the Randwick Guineas. He might have been a bit flat after that first up win (Hobartville Stakes) over there.
“He’s won on very firm ground in New Zealand so it wasn’t the track, so we put him out and let him have a let-up after that race he looks to have come back well.
“He likes his runs spaced a bit and he did run well in a trial (at Warwick Farm) last Thursday so all indications are he’ll put in a good run but where that places him, I’m not sure.”
Aegon, who is to be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy, has been listed a $13 chance to win the Doncaster.
Baker’s link to the ATC Derby is a strong one with five winners over the past 13 years, but he said his confidence of a sixth took a battering last Saturday when his chance The Frontman ran poorly in the strong lead-up race the Tulloch Stakes (2000m).
“He was very disappointing,” Baker said. “We thought he’d run a lot better than that (eighth) but he got a bit of a squeeze in the run and he’s a colt and he just seemed to stop.
“He’s very inexperienced, a real greenhorn but he’s a brother to Oaks winner Bonneval so he’s bred to stay and he shows he’s got the ability. It’s whether he his inexperience is going to count against him.”
Only the late Tommy Smith with nine wins has prepared more ATC Derby wins that Baker, who’s winning run began in 2008 with Nom Du Jeu before victories by Dundeel (2013), Mongolian Khan (2015), Jon Snow (2017) and last year with Quick Thinker.
On the back of his poor Tulloch run, The Frontman has eased out to $26 for Saturday’s $2 million classic.
Baker confirmed his Caulfield Cup placegetter from last spring The Chosen One will press on to Saturday week’s $2 million Sydney Cup after he beat a handful of horses home in the Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m).
“He got caught off the track and wide wasn’t the place to be there on Saturday and look, he’s probably more of a handicapper, so back to those conditions, he’ll run a lot better.”