Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman will be represented by a trio of Group 1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) contenders at Ellerslie this weekend with White Noise given the nod as their top seed.
The Cambridge trainers will be chasing their third victory in Saturday’s feature, having prepared Mongolian Khan to triumph in 2015 and Vin De Dance three years later.
The stable will also run Regal Lion and Privileged Son and while both also have genuine Derby claims, it is White Noise who is narrowly rated as its best chance of a repeat success.
“He is the one who has gone out and done it so far. He’s had a few starts and he has got a good temperament and nothing seems to worry him,” Baker said.
White Noise has won four of his nine starts, including a spring victory in the Group 3 Wellington Stakes (1600m) and added the Listed Gingernuts Salver (2100m) to his record two runs back before a solid fourth in the Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m).
Jockey Ryan Elliot will continue his association with the son of El Roca, who is expected to rise to the challenge of the step up to 2400m.
“He does everything right and he’s pretty genuine. He’s matured into quite a strong horse and I don’t think the trip will worry him,” Baker said.
“He is out of a Sir Percy mare and he won the English Derby (Group 1, 2400m).”
Regal Lion, who broke his maiden over 1950m in November, overcame a slow start to finish fifth in the Group 2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) and was again doing his best work late when seventh in the Avondale Guineas.
Baker said the son of Jakkalberry was the ideal type for the Derby distance, as long as it is run at a solid tempo.
“He wants the speed on and a genuinely run race. He’s just a horse that needs 2400m, the further the better for him.”
Matthew Cameron will partner Regal Lion, who was bred by Carl and Barbara McComb and they retained an ownership interest when OTI Racing purchased a majority share in the three-year-old before the Avondale Guineas.
Privileged Son is the least experienced member of the stable’s trio and earned his spot when he beat older opposition over 2100m at Pukekohe at his fourth appearance last month. He will be ridden by Kozzi Asano.
“I thought it was a very good staying effort the other day because he was third last early on,” Baker said. “The distance shouldn’t worry him as his mother is a half-sister to a top English stayer.”
By Savabeel, Privileged Son’s dam is the unraced Red Ransom mare Port Providence and her half-brother Persian Punch was a multiple Group winner over ground and twice placed in both the Group 1 Royal Ascot Gold Cup (3800m) and the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).
Baker and Forsman will also chase top honours in Saturday’s three-year-old fillies’ feature, the Group 2 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m), with Mustang Valley.
“She’s always thereabouts and we’re happy with her and a bit of rain would help,” Baker said. “It was a good effort from her the other day.”
He was referring to the daughter of Vanbrugh’s last-start fourth in the Group 2 David & Karyn Ellis Fillies’ Classic (2000m).
Baker will retire at the end of April to bring the curtain down on an esteemed training career and could have chances to add to his record tally of 22 Group One wins in Australia by a New Zealand-based trainer.
The Sydney autumn carnival is on the radar of high-class stayer The Chosen One while stablemate Marroni, who resumes on Sunday in an open handicap over 1500m, could also make the trip.
“He has a nomination for the Sydney Cup (Group 1, 3200m) and we think he’ll stay. He’s coming up well and with a bit of give in the ground we would be happy,” Baker said.
Marroni hasn’t raced since he won the Group 3 Manawatu Cup (2250m) at Awapuni in December and has trialled twice ahead of his return.