Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott have saddled the last two winners of the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m), and a pair of talented three-year-olds are putting a spring in the Matamata trainers’ step as they plot their path towards the 2023 edition.
O’Sullivan and Scott won the Derby with Rocket Spade in 2021 and Asterix in 2022, and they have two runners among the top 10 in the TAB’s fixed-odds market for this year’s running at Te Rapa on March 4.
Waitak, who was a fast-finishing second behind Prowess in the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) at Te Rapa on New Year’s Day, is on the second line of favouritism for the Derby at $8.
Not far behind him at a quote of $16 is last-start maiden winner Devildom, who will test his stamina credentials in this Sunday’s Listed Barfoot & Thompson Gingernuts Salver (2100m) at Pukekohe.
“The Derby is still a long way away, so anything can happen between now and then and any other horse could pop up,” O’Sullivan said.
“But certainly, at this stage, we’re happy with both of those horses. They have a long way to go, but they’re progressive three-year-olds that are going in the right direction.
“We were pleased with Waitak’s performance on New Year’s Day. He’s done a very good job in this preparation, and his next start is likely to be in the Waikato Guineas (Gr.2, 2000m) on February 1.
“This weekend is going to be an interesting race for Devildom. He was impressive in his maiden win over 1600m last start – that was a good, progressive performance.
“He’s continued to go the right way since then. It’s always a little bit of an unknown when you get to this stage of the three-year-old season, but Andrew and I have been very pleased with what he’s done so far.
“He was strong at the end of his last race, which bodes well as we prepare to step him up over ground this weekend. You never know whether they’ll manage it until you try it, but it certainly looks as though he’ll cope.”
Another member of O’Sullivan and Scott’s team at Pukekohe on Sunday is Uderzo, who steps up into Rating 75 grade in the Premier Horse Transport (1500m).
The Vadamos gelding has made a good impression with two wins from his first four starts, including a powerful come-from-behind performance in Rating 65 company at Pukekohe on Boxing Day.
“He won very nicely on Boxing Day and is another quite progressive horse,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s going up in grade this weekend and has to make that next step, and he has an awkward gate to contend with (10).
“We don’t have any real plans in mind for him at this stage. We’ll just get this run out of the way first, see how he measures up and then take it from there.”
Meanwhile, O’Sullivan reported that stable star Dragon Leap is likely to bypass next weekend’s Gr.1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph (1200m) at Trentham. The Pierro gelding ran an eye-catching race for fourth in the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) on New Year’s Day.
“That was a really pleasing performance,” O’Sullivan said.
“We think he wants a bit further now, so we’ll be looking to run him in the BCD Group Sprint (Gr.1, 1400m) back at Te Rapa in about six weeks’ time.”
That February 11 meeting at Te Rapa is also on the radar for Asterix, who is nominated for the Gr.1 Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m).
In his first start since triumphing in the Derby last March, the Tavistock gelding finished at the tail of a small field in a 1600m race at Te Rapa on December 17.
“He’s making good progress,” O’Sullivan said.
“He’s going to run over a mile again at Tauranga on Friday of next week, and then we’ll look to step him up to 2000m, potentially at Te Rapa.”
– Article by NZ Racing Desk