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New Zealand Derby Preview: Can High Chaparral dominate again?

March 4, 2011

Victory in the New Zealand Derby has either been a blessing or a curse for recent winners.

For the likes of C’est La Guerre and Xcellent, victory in New Zealand’s richest race led to a placing in Australia’s greatest race, the Melbourne Cup.

For Military Move, it signalled a New Zealand swansong as he was then shipped to Hong Kong.

Some, like Redoute’s Dancer, never raced again.

However, one thing is almost guaranteed – at least one of these horses will be seen in Sydney for the AJC Derby.

Which will it be?

Just Horse Racing writer Andrew Hawkins has analysed the field and determined where the value lies:

1. Jimmy Choux – New Zealand’s dominant 3yo colt and the firm favourite here. He’s done mostly everything right this season – apart from one hiccup in the G1 Levin Classic (1600m) when he suffered heart arrythmia. His pedigree suggests he’d be best at 1600m, but considering the ease of his win in the Waikato Guineas over 2000m, he should get the 2400m on class alone. The one they all have to beat.

2. He’s Remarkable – has long been touted as potentially the best stayer in the 3yo crop. His last run was disappointing though. If he’s right on the day, he’s the one to beat. But that’s a pretty big if. Furthermore, doesn’t like it wet, and it is bucketing down in Auckland. Will have to go back to near last from the gate, which could be pretty difficult. At $9 at the moment. Chance on his best form, but has a lot of negatives against him.

3. Icepin – underrated galloper who has done pretty incredibly to run 2nd in the Karaka Million (1200m) as a 2yo and to then line up as one of the favoured runners for the NZ Derby over twice the distance. Sensational, tough win in the Avondale Guineas (2100m). Doesn’t like it too wet though, so will be hoping the rain stops. Currently $13.

4. Hidden Asset – looked a potential star in the making after his win in the Championship Stakes (2100m) in January, but has disappointed in two subsequent runs. Yet to be tested on anything worse than good, but pedigree says he should handle a wet track. Will definitely run 2400m on pedigree (High Chaparral out of a Zabeel mare). Trainer Shaun Ritchie won Derby last year with Military Move. Big value at the $26.

5. On The Level
– versatile galloper who has improved as the trips have increased. Ran 4th in the Waikato Guineas (2000m) when he tried to lead all the way, then charged home for 2nd in the Avondale Guineas (2100m) when he was third last approaching the home turn. His pedigree is a slight concern when it comes to the distance, but he’s in the hands of arguably New Zealand’s best trainers of stayers so he can’t be dismissed. Currently $17. One for the place.

6. Yourein – John Sargent-trained horse who likes to race handy to the speed. Has been out of form recently and is struggling to recapture his form of a couple of months ago. Might appreciate a wet track, but he’s one of the outsiders. Prepared to risk.

7. Encosta Diablo
– consistent galloper who may just lack a little bit of the class of this field. He’s shown a liking for wet tracks however, and he should run the distance. Trainer Jason Bridgman seemed to indicate that this was his second string runner, with Icepin favoured, but if one was to surprise it could be this horse. Currently $17.

8. Jetset Lad
– was doing quite well this season, with some nice runs including a very nice 2nd to Jimmy Choux in the Wellington Stakes (1600m). However, last start, I think he demonstrated that he would find the 2400m a bit too far. Only reason I can’t dismiss him is that he has thrived on wet tracks in the past. However, it would be a surprise if he stayed the 2400m.

9. Nippin – Pins colt who has run a place at every start except for his debut. It’s a big step up in class here – it looks a bridge too far. But the thing about these consistent types is that they will pull out a run that surprises you, and they will meet every test they are thrown. That said, I still can’t have him.

10. Yin Yang Master – this horse actually has some of the best form up to 2000m in the field. However, when stepped up to 2100m, he just held his place. Don’t think he’ll appreciate the step up in distance, and the pedigree seems to suggest that too. Happy to risk.

11. O’Reilly’s Prize – here’s the 3yo with a sense of timing. He’s been brought through the grades slowly by his trainer, seemingly peaking at the right time. His run in the Avondale Guineas was a cracker, nothing went right and yet he still had the tenacity to finish 5th. That run will have him battle hardened for a tough run in the Derby. The query is the wet track, but his breeding suggests he should handle it fine. Go close.

12. Historian
– this horse has surprisingly done alright over 2000m, with good runs in the Waikato and Avondale Guineas. It is just the breeding which makes me think he can’t run 2400m. Choisir out of a Marauding mare? Not for a tough 2400m run, thank you very much.

13. Raffles Knight – don’t know much about this horse, he’s only had the five starts and I don’t think he’s run a poor race yet. His run in the Avondale Guineas wasn’t bad, and looking at his breeding, he should run the trip. Hard to back with any confidence though.

14. Sierra Nevada
– this High Chaparral has shown a lot of promise in his five starts. He did well stepping up from restricted class to run third in the Avondale Guineas behind Icepin. He’s crying out for 2400m, and he’ll handle the wet track. Jim Byrne flew over for the ride two weeks ago, and he retains the ride here. Could be a smokey.

15. Wisecrack – it’s been a rushjob to get him to the Derby – he’s won two of his three starts. Big jump up in class, but he looks talented – however, the problem is race experience. He was very wayward in his last start win. Being by High Chaparral, he’ll appreciate the 2400m and most likely the wet track. It’s just whether he is mentally there yet.

16. Between The Beats – he’s been outclassed behind many of these horses before, and while he is bred to stay the trip and has trainer of the moment Jeff Lynds behind him, I can’t see him figuring in the finish.

17. Banchee – the lone filly of the field, she’s a class act. Has form around all of NZ’s best 3yos. On the surface she was disappointing in the Avondale Guineas, but upon reflection she had nowhere to go and was actually rather unlucky. The trip is a bit of a query, but the Velas are hoping to bring her to Sydney so they’d be hoping for a good run here.

SUMMARY

The wet track throws a bit of a spanner in the works here. Jimmy Choux looks the one to beat, no doubt. And really, he should win. However, I love the odds about Hidden Asset. I think he has a lot of things in his favour here. So I’ll put Hidden Asset on top purely because of the value. Jimmy Choux in for second. For third, I think I’ll put in He’s Remarkable. If he’s anywhere near right, he’ll go very close. For 4th, I’ll go for O’Reilly’s Prize just ahead of Sierra Nevada. Other chances are Icepin, On The Level, Wisecrack and Banchee. Open race.

NUMBERS

4. Hidden Asset
1. Jimmy Choux
2. He’s Remarkable
11. O’Reilly’s Prize

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