After dominating Sydney in the early spring, Gai Waterhouse appeared set to feature prominently in Melbourne as she travelled to the Victorian capital armed with an arsenal of stars including Pierro, More Joyous and Glencadam Gold.
But now the hall of fame trainer could be headed back to Sydney without a single Group 1 title from Australia’s premier racing period to her name.
Glencadam Gold flopped when favourite in the Caulfield Cup while Pierro was considered unbeatable in the Caulfield Guineas before being tackled and toppled by All Too Hard.
More Joyous, who had toyed with her rivals in early spring races in Sydney, could not carry 60kg when a short-priced favourite in the Toorak Handicap and neither her nor colts Proisir and Pierro could match it with Ocean Park and All Too Hard in the pressure cooker environment of the Cox Plate.
Could Our Desert Warrior, a $21.00 Victoria Derby chance with less than an ideal lead-up form, be the one to turn it around for Waterhouse at Flemington this Saturday?
Prior to It’s A Dundeel’s defeat in the Mitchelton Wines Vase at Moonee Valley the answer would have almost certainly been no with the Derby trophy all but bubble wrapped and ready to head across the Tasman for the third year in a row.
But the shock defeat of the previously unbeaten New Zealand colt has opened the Derby right up and Waterhouse believes if Our Desert Warrior can sort out his race manners he can match it with the best three-year-old stayers in the country this weekend.
A brother to multiple Group 1 winner Desert War, the raw colt was impressive when winning by more than a length at Kembla Grange first-up but has finished fourth in two starts since.
“His maturity is improving after the way he bombed the start in his second race,” Waterhouse said in her blog.
“He did not really know what he was doing that day but he has been scoped and re-scoped and there was nothing wrong with him.
“Colts can be big silly things.”
Our Desert Warrior is one of 16 horses chasing glory in the $1.5 million three-year-old feature, with It’s A Dundeel heading the market at $2.80 ahead of Honorius ($7), Super Cool ($7) and Hvasstan ($7).