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Wexford set to defend Derby crown

Wexford Stables couldn’t get what appeared to be their two leading chances in the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) to the starting gates, but it appears they won’t be without a chance of retaining their title at Ellerslie on Saturday.

Injuries kept Dark Destroyer and Karman Line out of the classic, but trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott are set to start recent Tauranga 2100m maiden winner Asterix in the race they won last year with Rocket Spade.

“I thought it was a good, strong, staying performance at Tauranga,” O’Sullivan said.

“We’ve had a few issues with him, that’s why he’s done as little racing as he has, but he worked well this morning (Tuesday) and he’s ready to go for Saturday.

“He’s bred to run a long way. It’s just a question of whether it’s 12 months too soon for him.”

A $450,000 purchase at the 2020 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready to Run sale, Asterix, a son of Tavistock, is out of a half-sister to French Group Two winner Mouramara, the dam of Gr.1 Sydney Cup (3200m) winner Mourayan and of Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) third placegetter Mourilyan.

A $31 chance in the Derby, Asterix races in the colours of Sam Kelt, who won the 1993 New Zealand Derby with Popsy, ridden by O’Sullivan and trained by his father Dave and brother Paul.

Kelt has another Group One prospect with the O’Sullivan-Scott team in Cacofonix, another runner named for a character in the Asterix comic book series.

Bought at the same Ready To Run Sale by Bruce Perry on Kelt’s behalf, Cacofonix is a $200,000 son of Dundeel.

Cacofonix is a contender for the Gr.1 Wellington Seamarket Levin Classic (1600m) at Trentham on March 19 after winning at Matamata over 1400m last Saturday, despite sitting three wide for jockey Leith Innes for most of the race.

“I can see why Leith went forward – they weren’t running any speed. If they’re running no speed you can sit deep. If they’re running speed it’s much more difficult,” O’Sullivan said.

“Leith thought it was the place to be, and he was right, because the first three into the straight were the first three home.

“But it was a good, tough win, he did it hard and kicked strong. He was very game.”

O’Sullivan said Cacofonix would head to the Levin Classic without another run.

“He’s been a slow maturer and he’s another one that’s going to be better in time. If he comes through it strong, the plan is to go to Wellington,” he said.

Dark Destroyer, who was forced out of the New Zealand Derby after a minor setback, will run on Derby Day but in the Listed Stella Artois Mufhasa Stakes (1400m) for three-year-olds. A good run could see him join Cacofonix in the Levin Classic.

“That’s the plan, but it’s not finalised,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ll talk it over after the race at Ellerslie with David Archer, who plays a big role in where his horses race.

“We’re possibly looking at a tilt at the Brisbane carnival, and David might decide that he wants to press on with Brisbane rather than Wellington, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

Karman Line, who finished third in the Listed Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Ellerslie on January 22, had a stone bruise after that race and is likely to resume training this week.

“She hasn’t really missed any work, she’s continued to swim every day, and the easy time has actually done her the world of good. She looks absolutely magnificent,” O’Sullivan said.

“We’ve been given the all clear and she looks pretty sound today, so hopefully tomorrow or the next day she’ll be back under saddle.

“Hopefully, if we’re happy, she’s another possibility to go to Brisbane." 

- Article by NZ Racing Desk


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