Most of the leading candidates for next month’s Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) came away from their final dress rehearsal at Ellerslie on Saturday confident of their chances for the blue riband event.
Victory in the Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) has propelled On The Rocks into equal third favourite for the Derby at $6.50 on the TAB Fixed Odds market however it was runner-up Danzdanzdance who was the big mover, in to co-favourite at $4.50 with Saturday’s fourth-place finisher, Scott Base.
“It was a massive run as she was lucky to stay on her feet on the home corner,” said Danzdanzdance’s co-trainer Chris Gibbs.
“She got two bad bumps and Matt (Cameron) said she nearly went down but once he got her balanced she charged home.
“The wide draw didn’t help either as she was three-wide most of the way so all in all you have to be delighted with the run even though she got narrowly beaten.”
Gibbs admitted he was concerned before the race about the slow nature of the Ellerslie surface.
“We just weren’t sure if she would handle the track but she got through it quite well in the end,” he said.
“We weren’t worried about the distance as we’ve always had confidence she would thrive over more ground. Matt said he struggled to pull her up as she wanted to keep going which is a real positive heading into the Derby.
“What we need now is a decent draw.”
Otaki trainer Johno Benner is another who took plenty of confidence from the performance of his Derby runner Scott Base, who finished off nicely from well back in the field to run fourth.
“The draw cost us in the end as he just got too far back,” said Benner, who prepares the Dalghar gelding with partner Hollie Wynyard.
“I think he has run the quickest last 600m sectional of them all as he made up a ton of ground, but you just can’t give them that big a start.
“If he can draw a barrier in the Derby he will be hard to beat as he relaxed beautifully on Saturday and we have no doubts he will run a tough 2400m right out.”
One of the drifters in the TAB market was Saturday’s seventh place runner in Mongolianconqueror who struggled to make ground on the puggy surface.
“We were happy enough with his effort although on the face of it he was a little disappointing,” said co-trainer Jamie Richards.
“Michael (McNab) came in after the race and said he just floundered in the run home as he couldn’t get his footing on the wet track. He also got a bit of a squeeze on the corner so it might just pay to write the run off.
“As long as he pulls up well we’ll most likely press on with him to the Derby.”
Richards also reported stablemate Griffin had pleased rider Johnathan Parkes despite finishing in mid-field and he would also be monitored over the next few days before a final decision was made on his Derby commitment.