Milford’s Derby credentials face Guineas test

Milford will contest the Group 2 AJC Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie on Saturday. Photo: Trish Dunell

The closer the Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) gets, the more excited Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh is about the chances of Milford.

The promising colt broke his maiden in black-type company last start, producing a strong staying effort to win the Listed Salver (2100m) at Ellerslie on January 10.

Marsh said Milford has thrived since that race and he’s looking forward to seeing how he shapes up in the Group 2 AJC Avondale Guineas (2100m) this Saturday.

“He’s had a little break, and we took him for an exhibition gallop last week, and he’s worked well since. He’s going to go great, but he’ll be at his peak for the Derby,” Marsh said. “I think he’s improved again and I’m really liking what he’s doing.”

Marsh has made use of gear changes to get the best out of Milford and said the addition of side winkers appeared to help him at his last start.

“You know, he’s a colt, he’s got a bit of a wandering mind, and the winkers gave him that little bit more concentration,” Marsh said. “Opie (Bosson) rode him at Te Rapa at a mile and said that if he had the side winkers on he might have pulled out that bit extra and won, so we slapped them on and he duly obliged at Ellerslie.”

A $360,000 purchase at Book 1 of the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales, Milford’s owners include Lib Petagna, who also raced Marsh’s 2019 Derby winner Crown Prosecutor.

The side winkers will also be on Marsh’s other Avondale Guineas runner, Ulaanbaatar. He ran well without winning in his first three starts before disappointing at Matamata last week.

“He was very average at Matamata, but I can’t find anything wrong with him.” Marsh said. “His work’s been good since and the step up to 2100m and the side winkers back on is hopefully the key for him.

“It’s looking like a pretty open Derby, so we want to give him his last chance to get there for sure.”

Milford and Ulaanbaatar aren’t the only runners in the Marsh team this Saturday with big targets in the near future, with Group 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) candidate Lincoln King lining up in the Group 2 Wallen Concreting Avondale Cup (2400m).

Lincoln King is a proven two-miler, having gone down by a nostril to Dragon Storm in the Group 3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) in November.

He finished second, beaten by nearly four lengths, at his most recent start, a 1600m open handicap at Pukekohe, but that form now looks much better given that his conqueror was last Saturday’s Group 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) winner Royal Performer.

“He’s coming right at the right time,” Marsh said. “He’s come through his Pukekohe run great and his work’s been very, very good.”

Marsh expects Lincoln King to run well in the Avondale Cup, but he says he will improve again with the run.

“From the outset we really wanted to target one race, and that’s the Auckland Cup, and he’s going to be cherry ripe for that,” Marsh said.

“He’s still going to go a very good race on Saturday, but he’s going to have improvement in him to have him bang on for the Auckland Cup.”

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