The Sydney Derby use to be run in the spring as to give the best staying three-year-olds a chance to get ready for the Melbourne Cup. Before the season change in 1979, some of the best horses in Australian history won this race. Phar Lap, Tulloch and Peter Pan all won this race when it was a spring event. Dulcify and Kingston Town won the race soon after the change to the autumn. In recent times the race has not been won by the same quality of horse; since Dulcify, Octagonal is probably the only true champion to have won the race.
This year, more than any other of recent time, we may be seeing a champion. It’s A Dundeel is a really good horse. Gai Waterhouse rates Proisir not too far behind Pierro, and It’s A Dundeel has twice at 2000m beaten Proisir pointlessly. In the 2040m race an hour before the Cox Plate last year, It’s A Dundeel was not given a great ride and he still almost won. The horse that beat him turned out to be a gun; Super Cool has since won the 2000m Australian Cup and run second to Fiveandahalfstar in the VRC Derby.
It’s A Dundeel ran really well in the VRC Derby and with another 5 months of work in him, he now looks ideally suited for the 2400m on Saturday. Based on the Rosehill Guineas, where this horse could have run another lap in a canter and would not have been caught, he will be better at the 2400m which is a scary proposition.
So who will come second? It has to be Hippopus. Gai has not been silent in her annoyance of the lack of three-year-old staying races in Sydney over the autumn. The Derby stands out like a beacon and Hippopus has been freshened and aimed at this race for months. All the other horses in this race have been exposed for weeks and many of them have been dusted by It’s A Dundeel in recent weeks. Hippopus has been quietly going through the grades and there is no doubt he will be out in front at some stage doing the job Fiveandahalfstar would have been doing.
Verdict: The old quinella. Hippopus and It’s A Dundeel. How about the three Group One races? Overreach is twos on, Black Caviar is ten to one on and It’s A Dundeel is four to one on. We will definitely see one champion in the last; let’s hope we see two more champs in the other Group One races.
By Zeb Armstrong