Craig Williams made it a winning treble at Flemington on Wednesday in the Derby Preview aboard Gundec, who has plunged in the betting for the Group 1 Victoria Derby.
Williams settled outside the leader on board the Symon Wilde-trained colt and was able to get the better of Sharper inside the final 100m to win by half a length in the 1800m event.
The son of Kermadec was yet to win a race in three prior starts, including two runs in Sydney in April that resulted in a fourth behind Billiondollarbaby on debut and then a sixth in the Listed Fernhill Stakes at Randwick when four lengths behind Converge.
Gundec was transferred to Wilde’s stable over the winter, and the Warrnambool-based trainer has had VRC Derby aspirations for this horse from day one.
“It’s looking like 2500m is going to be right up his alley, the way he sort of toughed it out late,” he told Racing.com.
“He might’ve had a little bit of luck with the skirmish behind him, but that’s the advantage of having tactical speed, you can get out of that sort of trouble.
“I’m rapt that he’s in actually; I think he’’ be a really good chance.”
Winning his way into the 3YO Classic on October 30 will give Wilde his first Derby runner, which is a massive thrill given the connections involved are “loyal” supporters of his stable.
“A good team of loyal clients sort of backed us in; we thought we’d found a Derby colt,” he said.
“Dave and me identified the horse and the owners were good enough to sell him to us – they’re still in the ownership as well, so hopefully it’ll be a good ride here on in.”
No plans are set in stone for Gundec between now and the Derby, with Wilde hinting that the Super Impose Stakes (1800m) on October 2 at Flemington could be his next start.
“I think that’s the sort of race we’ll probably look at, but I didn’t look too much past today actually,” he said.
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After taking out the Oaks Preview in the race prior aboard Barb Raider, Williams made it a race-to-race double as a part of his winning treble with Gundec.
“Symon Wilde and his stable actually introduced me to this horse one morning down at Geelong,” the jockey said on Racing.com.
“He asked me to come down and do a couple of gallops, and he was one of them.
“We looked at his profile from Sydney as a two-year-old, and a couple of horses that my manager and I earmarked looking at a Derby later on in the spring, actually came through the same race.
“So it’s been a great investment by Symon Wilde and his clients and you could see today, they were rewarded by their decision making by not going to the maiden last Friday at Geelong, to coming here today to win this race.
“It really sets him up nicely; I actually like the way that he’s come on, the way he’s visually come on in his looks from his first-up run and even the way that he’d tightened up.
“Symon said he loves this big tough colt; you can throw a lot of work at him … there still looks like there’s a bit to work with which is really exciting going forward.
“He’s in the right care for a staying type of horse – in Symon Wilde and all his staff – and I’m really looking forward to the journey ahead with him.
“I think he can still come on from today’s win and experience having his second run down here in Victoria.”
The race was not without some drama, as the fancied Inverell was blocked for a run and nearly fell upon straightening.
Despite being heavily backed, race favourite Footlights did not figure in the finish, with the placings being filled by outsiders Sharper ($51) and Sebastian The Fox ($71) respectively.
Wednesday’s win saw Gundec firm from $41 into $11 second-favouritism for the Victoria Derby with Sportsbet.