Weekend Lead-ups Could be Key to Queensland Derby

The Queensland Derby picture is likely to be a lot clearer after Saturday, with some key lead-up races taking place this weekend.

Hawkspur is one of many horses having a Queensland Derby lead-up on Saturday. Photo by: Daniel Costello.

At Doomben, many will press their claims in traditional lead-up the Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) while a BenchMark 74 handicap at Randwick could also provide some answers.

Current Derby favourite Survived will not race again until the main event but a number of his major rivals will step out this weekend.

Chris Waller-trained gelding Hawkspur powered through the heavy ground to beat Survived in the Rough Habit Plate last Saturday week and will start among the favourites in the Grand Prix Stakes.

Joining Hawkspur at Doomben are Murray Baker-trained Kiwis Usainity and Ambitious Champion.

Usainity has already proven himself on Australian soil with a win in the Frank Packer Plate and a Rough Habit third but there is a school of thought that he may be Baker’s Derby second stringer.

Ambitious Champion will chase a third straight win when he makes his Australian debut on Saturday after some impressive performances at home.

Bookies were quick to slash the Zed gelding’s Derby price to $17 after he was as high as $61 before the Grand Prix Stakes field was named.

Sydney trainer Gai Waterhouse will use the Grand Prix to try and get Hippopus back on track for the Derby after he finished 12th in Saturday’s Doomben Cup.

In Sydney, Peter Moody’s staying gelding Prince Jester will continue his path to the Queensland Derby in the Pixable Handicap.

The son of Golan indicated his potential for a possible Queensland trip earlier this month when winning an 1800m race at Caulfeild by 4 1/2 lengths.

Other key Derby hopefuls running at Randwick include Chris Waller’s last-start winner Richie’s Bickies and Tulloch Stakes third placegetter Sir Denzel.

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