“I think he has the makings of something special.”
Trainer Graeme Rogerson stopped short of saying Australian Derby favourite Sharp ‘N’ Smart is the best horse he’s trained but the exciting three-year-old would be well on his way to that honour if he can win the classic at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
And if he is to win he’ll have earned it after drawing barrier 17 but Rogerson said that’s not his problem.
“I only train him, Hughie’s got to ride him. I want him one off the fence running about fifth or sixth!’’ Rogerson said, obviously tongue in cheek.
“He’s a good rider and it doesn’t matter, he can go back or forward, as long as he wins.”
Hugh Bowman partnered Sharp ‘N’ Smart to victories in the Gloaming Stakes and Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes back in the spring then James McDonald was in the saddle when he was run down by Manzoice in the VRC Derby.
It’s 26 years since Ebony Grosve gave Rogerson a win in the Group 1 $2m ATC Australian Derby (2400m) and while he said you can’t compare the two he can only see continued upside with Sharp ‘N’ Smart, the $3 favourite with TAB on Tuesday.
“He doesn’t know how to be a racehorse yet but he is getting better,’’ he said.
“I’ve had some good horses and he’s got the potential to be a good horse. He’s just got to keep improving and learn how to be a racehorse.
“He can certainly run times and he can sit three or four wide, he doesn’t pull, you can ride him anywhere. It’ll test him from 17 but last time Hugh rode him he was wide the whole race and still won.”
Rogerson, who co-trains with wife Deborah, said everything the gelding has done since the spring says he’s gone up a notch.
He resumed with a second in the Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) before taking out the Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) and added the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) to his tally with a gritty performance at Te Rapa on March 4.
“He went too soon on him (in the Derby) and the horse decided to pull up then the last bit when the others came at him away he went,’’ Rogerson said.
“Ryan Elliot rode him Saturday morning and he said he’s improved immensely since the Derby and I couldn’t believe his trackwork (on Tuesday) morning. I just think he is getting better.
“I’m hoping come spring time he’s a real good horse. He’s just a great horse to train.”
The last Spring Champion Stakes winner to train on to win the Derby was It’s A Dundeel in 2013 and only two New Zealand Derby winners have won the Australian Derby since 1979 when it switched to the autumn – Mongolian Khan in 2015 and Bonecrusher in 1985.
The first four home in NZ Derby have turned up at Randwick with runner-up Andalus and fourth placed Mark Twain making their Australian debut while third placed Full Of Sincerity backs up after running in the Tulloch Stakes last weekend.
“I think New Zealand has got a good group of young horses. As four-year-olds I think you’ll see some very good horses,’’ Rogerson said.
If Sharp ‘N’ Smart proves too good for the three-year-olds in the Derby there’s every chance Rogerson will ask him to take on a world class field in the Group 1 $5m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on April 8.
– Racing NSW