The South Australian Jockey Club has drawn together a full field of sixteen starters plus one emergency for South Australia’s three year old staying championship over 2,500m, the Group 1 $350,000 South Australian Derby.
The 2011 SA Derby features an exceptionally strong field with many chances. The tempo of the affair will have a definite impact on the eventual outcome and the Mark Kavanagh trained Kittens will most likely roll forward from her outside gate to ensure the race is run at a decent clip.
Early favourite for the Derby is the last start VRC St Leger winner, Right Of Refusal. The Nigel Blackiston trained chestnut disposed of a quality field of stayers at Flemington when he went on to score easing down by four lengths. The most impressive aspect of his St Leger win was the horse’s ability to drop the bit and relax throughout the early stages of the affair and quicken when asked, running his last 600 metres in the outstanding split of 35.64 seconds. Bred on stout staying lines by Irish stallion Refuse To Bend out of Quest For Fame mare Melinda, the Flemington trained gelding should be able to utilise some tactical speed early and slot into a lovely position one off the fence on the back of the speed. Former champion New Zealand jockey Michael Walker retains the mount and will be looking for his first Group 1 victory in over twelve months after scoring most recently on Military Move in the 2010 New Zealand Derby at Ellerslie.
The main threat to Right Of Refusal’s Group 1 quest will come from the Darley owned, Peter Snowden trained Backgammon. The son of underrated sire Domesday has been specifically aimed at this race since the start of his campaign which has included two Morphettville placing’s in the major lead up races, the Listed Port Adelaide Guineas and the Group 3 Chairmans Stakes. The bay gelding’s racing pattern suggests he will be well served by the step up to the 2500 metres of the Derby and jockey Mark Zahra will no doubt allow Backgammon plenty of time to balance up towards the rear of the field before winding up over the final 600 metres. Darley and Peter Snowden won last year’s rendition of the event with Viscount gelding Kidnapped, who had many similar qualities to this year’s representative Backgammon.
A win in the Derby by the regally bred Echoes Of Heaven will ensure a potentially successfully stud career comes to fruition. Trained by Caulfield mentor Mick Price, the son of champion stallion Encosta De Lago out of the wonderful broodmare Shantha’s Choice, Echoes Of Heaven is a blood relation to highly successful sires Redoute’s Choice, Platinum Scissors and the prematurely retired Manhattan Rain. A Group 1 win will drastically increase Echoes Of Heaven’s stud value and a last start third in the Group 3 Chairmans Stakes when beaten only half a length proves that the colt is more than up to the task. Stable jockey Craig Newitt regains the mount after leading female jockey Claire Lindop temporarily lost the use of her whip over the concluding stages during the last start defeat. Newitt should be able to secure a trouble free run midfield before bringing the blueblood with his run in the straight.
Plenty of chances to the remainder of the field, but one horse at juicy odds might be the Patinack Farm owned Jeter. One of four fillies to face the starter, the daughter of up and coming Vinery based stallion Mossman has been an eyecatcher in her two most recent runs. Champion Adelaide rider Paul Gatt retains the mount and the filly will be looking to add some Black Type to her resume. The John Thompson trained filly will be hitting the line hard and must be included in all multiples.
Overall a wonderful composition of staying three year olds will assemble for the 151st running of the Group 1 South Australian Derby and the race will no doubt provide a strong pointer to some of the major cups to run over the 2011 Victorian Spring Racing Carnival.