There’s still five weeks until the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) but it is a group of New Zealand gallopers that appear to hold the strongest early hopes for the $500,000 staying test.
Of the 120 horses entered yesterday for Queensland’s biggest three-year-old race, just six are trained in New Zealand.
But while the contingent from across the Tasman may be small, it is certainly not lacking any quality.
Heading nominations for the Eagle Farm feature is Survived, a gelding from the stable of Hastings trainer John Bary.
Bary was the man who prepared star galloper Jimmy Choux to win the 2011 Rosehill Guineas and he is well poised to steal another Australian Group 1.
A winner of five of seven starts, Survived has won his last four outings including the Group 3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) and the Group 3 Hawke’s Gold Cup (2200m).
In the Manawatu Classic the son of Zed defeated Usainity who pressed his Queensland Derby claims on Australian debut when winning the Group 3 Frank Packer Plate (2000m) last month.
A stablemate of Sydney three-year-old triple crown winner It’s A Dundeel, Usainity has won four times and recorded three minor placings from seven trips to the races.
Usainity is one of two Murray Baker-trained Queensland Derby entrants, joined by fellow son of Zed Ambitious Champion who began his career with four consecutive runner-up finishes before taking top honours at his two most recent starts.
Regular visitor to Brisbane’s winter carnival John Wheeler, who has trained two Derby winners with Rough Habit (1990) and Court Ruler (2009), has nominated last-start winner Lumiere Blue.
Other potential Kiwi Queensland Derby contenders include Waterford who was second in the Group 1 1000 Guineas at Riccarton Park in November and Stephen McKee-trained filly Lumiere Blue.