Kukeracha dances to Derby glory

Kukeracha and James McDonald bravely hold out Senor Toba (mostly obscured) to win the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm. Photo Credit: Grant Peters

The Chris Waller-trained Kukeracha prevailed in a driving finish to the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) to down stablemate Senor Toba with triple Derby hero Explosive Jack finishing a game third.

Bred in New Zealand by Dr Chris Phillips, who is the resident vet at Waikato Stud, Kukeracha came from midfield under a well-timed James McDonald ride to land the spoils in the colours of proud Queenslander Neville Morgan.

The three-year-old son of Night Of Thunder has now won three of his 13 starts, with a further five placings and entered the Derby off the back of a third in the Group 2 Queensland Guineas (1600m) and a runner-up finish in the Group 3 Rough Habit Plate (2000m).

The victory was the 126th Group One win for an emotional Chris Waller.

“He just came into the race nicely and I saw Explosive Jack kicking, with all the form, on the inside and I thought we’re going to run a nice second or third, but to both the horses credit they dug deep,” Waller said.

“The team up here have done a great job.

“We had a great opinion of Kukeracha as a two-year-old and then he sort of lost his way a little bit. Typical story, he was gelded and just taken through the system.

“He ran a good race in the Grand Prix (City To Surf Plate) up here in the summer and I just wanted to give him some experience on this track – it wasn’t racing that well then.

“I think maybe that has been a good move because his run in the Queensland Guineas was good, last start in the Rough Habit was good and today was brilliant.”

For Hall of Fame jockey James McDonald, it was a 54th career Group One and the Kiwi hoop was pleased Waller made the call as to which horse he rode in the Derby.

“Chris makes the decisions and I was lucky enough to be on the right horse today,” McDonald said.

“They say jockeys are the worst decision makers so I’m glad I don’t have that choice.

“He’s just a good horse. He deserved it.

“I probably should have waited a little longer at the top of the straight because I got into a little bit of trouble, but he was the right horse to get me out of it. He’s got a great turn of foot.”

Kukeracha was purchased by Mulcaster Bloodstock for $130,000 out of the Waikato Stud draft at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale.

A half-brother to the Group 3 Keith Nolan Classic winner Cameo by Shamardal, Kukeracha is the eighth foal and fifth winner of the well-bred AP Indy mare Portrait Of A Lady, whose grandam is the Champion 3YO filly in Ireland in 1989, Alydaress, the winner of the Group 1 English Oaks and who hails from the family of Desirable, Shadayid, Park Appeal and Cape Cross.

Phillips purchased Portrait of a Lady for $40,000 when carrying Kukeracha and has subsequently bred a filly and a colt by Sacred Falls, in addition to a filly foal by Ocean Park.

The Derby triumph provided New Zealand bred horses with a clean-sweep of all six Derbys in Australia this season, with Explosive Jack, by Jakkalberry landing the Group 1 South Australian (2500m) and Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m), in addition to the Listed Tasmanian Derby (2200m), while Johnny Get Angry, a son of Tavistock, and Western Empire, a son of Iffraaj, won the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) and Group 2 Western Australian Derby (2400m) respectively.

Kiwi breds have enjoyed a fine season across the Tasman, winning 22.5 percent of all Group One races in Australia and account for 7.2 percent of runners in the lucky country.

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