The Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained Two Illicit announced herself as a serious Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) contender when she simply blew her rivals off the track at Te Rapa on Saturday.
The ultra-consistent Jimmy Choux filly elected to take on the boys alongside potential Derby rival Travelling Light in the Group 2 Legacy Lodge Waikato Guineas (2000m) and she gave them all a lesson as she streaked clear to win the three-year-old feature by a stunning seven and a half-lengths.
Ridden a treat by regular pilot Vinnie Colgan, Two Illicit settled back off a hot speed before travelling nicely into contention before the home bend. Tracked at every stride by Travelling Light, Two Illicit dropped the $1.45 favourite as she cleared out to win in a slick 2.01.61. An emotional Roger James was sporting a wide grin as he accepted congratulations in the Te Rapa birdcage after the race. “I think we saw something a bit special,” he said. “I’m just thrilled that she has fulfilled what I thought she could.
“When she worked last Sunday, it gave me goose bumps. I said to Robert (Wellwood) that I’ve been lucky enough to have some good three-year-olds and I reckon this filly will rank right up with them. “It made me nervous when I looked at the racebook when I got here today as I’ve won the race three times before and twice with fillies that have gone on and won the Derby. “She’s got big shoes to fill but the more I do with her the better she gets.”
James advised he would now sit down with Two Illicit’s owners to discuss whether she will head to the Derby at Ellerslie on February 29 and attempt to emulate Silent Achiever (2012) and Tidal Light (1986) as fillies James has prepared to win the Ellerslie feature.
One of those owners is Brent Taylor who bred the filly at Trelawney Stud from Tale Of The Cat mare, Gemini. “We don’t try to make decisions on raceday but you’d have to say after that she is a pretty strong contender for the Derby,” he said. “That was frightening how good that was as Travelling Light is one of the best fillys we have seen for a while and she (Two Illicit) has managed to put a margin on her.”
The race was robbed of plenty of interest due to the scratching of Derby favourite Dragon Leap on race morning due to an elevated temperature, however he would have had to have been at his very best to topple Two Illicit who enjoys a one-nil advantage in their head-to-head meetings after she inflicted his only defeat in the Listed Trevor Eagle Memorial 3YO (1500m) at Ellerslie back in November.
TAB Bookmakers reacted swiftly to the win, installing Two Illicit as $2.80 joint favourite in the New Zealand Derby Fixed Odds market with Dragon Leap, ahead of Sherwood Forest at $8 and Two Illicit’s stablemate Reggiewood at $10.