The 2015 Australian Derby field has been released and a number of Group 1 winners are set to clash in the $2 million race at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Volkstok’N’Barrell made his Australian racing debut in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens on March 21 and he produced a long sustained run to record a maiden win at Group 1 level after he finished second behind Mongolian Khan in the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on February 28.
Preferment fought out the finish of the Rosehill Guineas with Volkstok’N’Barrell and the genuine stayer is sure to relish the step-up to 2400 metres in the Group 1 event.
The Zabeel colt broke his maiden to win the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2400m) during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, but he made a slow start to his autumn campaign after finishing 11th in the Group 2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on February 21 and at the tail of the field in the Group 1 Royal Randwick Guineas (1600m) at Royal Randwick on March 7.
Preferment started the Rosehill Guineas as an outsider in betting, but he produced a much improved effort and looked like the winner at the 200 metre mark before Volkstok’N’Barrell proved too strong in the final stages.
Another galloper that is sure to relish the step-up to 2000 metres is Murray Baker-trained Mongolian Khan.
Mongolian Khan recorded five straight wins in New Zealand and took out both the Group 2 Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie on February 14 and the New Zealand Derby, but he was one of the first horses beaten in the Rosehill Guineas and will need to produce an improved performance to win the Australian Derby.
Rounding out the Group 1 winner in the 2015 Australian Derby field is Gai Waterhouse-trained Hampton Court, who will be having his fourth race start in as many weeks if he takes his place in the field this weekend.
Hampton Court won the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, but he has failed to fire in the Group 2 Hobartville Stakes (1400m), Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes (1500m), Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and Group 1 The BMW (2400m).
The Tulloch Stakes is another race that will be a key form reference to the Australian Derby and winner Hauraki is set to back-up in the Group 1 event this weekend.
Hauraki failed to fire in two race starts in Melbourne this preparation, but he returned to a semblance of his best form in the Phar Lap Stakes before he strolled to victory in the Tulloch Stakes.
Tulloch Stakes runner-up Omeros, Quick Strike, Ruling Dynasty and Brogue have also been included in the Australian Derby field and will back-up from the Tulloch Stakes.
The 2015 Australian Derby barrier draw will be held at 11.30pm this morning.