The horse John O’Shea hoped would be his winter carnival flagbearer is in the spelling paddock, but the top trainer still has some bullets to fire in Brisbane’s major races.
O’Shea will start Stroke Of Luck and former New Zealander Andalus in the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday, a race he will be striving to win for the first time.
He had originally hoped Lost And Running would also be competing this weekend in the Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m) but after a tough run in the All Aged Stakes the decision was made to pull up stumps and concentrate on earning another Everest slot.
“He had those really hard runs on heavy tracks from wide draws (during the autumn) and I just felt we needed to start again,” O’Shea said.
Stroke Of Luck leads his Derby charge after drawing well in barrier four while Andalus, who is making his debut for the stable, will have to overcome the second outside gate in the 18-strong field.
The former had no luck in the Tulloch Stakes three starts ago when strung up for a run, then wasn’t disgraced when eighth in the ATC Australian Derby on an unsuitable heavy track.
He showed he had freshened up well with a solid third to Special Swey in the Rough Habit Plate (2000m) at Doomben and O’Shea expected the bigger Eagle Farm circuit to be more to his liking.
“He was six weeks between runs and had a burn around the other day,” O’Shea said.
“He didn’t quite get around Doomben and he’ll be better suited over a mile-and-a-half at Eagle Farm.”
Formerly with Stephen Marsh, Andalus is proven at the classic journey, finishing runner-up to Sharp ‘N’ Smart in the New Zealand Derby and just beating home Stroke Of Luck in the Sydney version.
Blinkers go back on for Saturday’s contest and while he will be eight weeks between runs, the gelding has been kept up to the mark with two barrier trials.
“He ran second in the New Zealand Derby and probably went too far forward in the Australian Derby but he’s a really nice horse,” O’Shea said.
“We’re very happy with both horses, both are genuine mile-and-a-half horses so we’re desperate to get them going.”
Stroke Of Luck is $17 in early Queensland Derby markets while Andalus is a $34 chance with betting dominated by $1.85 favourite Kovalica, who is on the back-up from an outstanding third against the older horses in the Doomben Cup.
– RAS NewsWire