The Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott team will launch a two-pronged attack on Wednesday’s Gr.2 Legacy Lodge Waikato Guineas (2000m) as they finalise their plans to secure a third Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) title in succession.
The Matamata stable, who have claimed the blue riband event with Rocket Spade (2021) and Asterix (2022) the last two years, will line-up established performer Waitak and up and comer Devildom in the Te Rapa feature with both looking to cement their Derby credentials with a solid staying performance.
Waitak goes into the 2000m contest off the back of an eye-catching late finish behind subsequent Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) winner Prowess in the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m) on New Year’s Day, while Devildom was caught late by race rival Cruz Missile in the Listed Gingernuts Salver (2100m) in his latest effort.
O’Sullivan is confident both horses are ready to perform well as they ramp up their Derby preparations and will handle the heavy underfoot conditions, they are liable to strike on Wednesday.
“Both of our horses are well and this race is ideally situated as we build to the Derby,” he said.
“We’re not too worried about the wet track as they seem to have handled it in the past and if we don’t run this week there is no guarantee we won’t strike similar if we scratch and wait a week.
“As long as they perform to expectations then they will both go to the Avondale Guineas (Gr.2, 2200m) and then the Derby.”
While that is the current plan for both horses, O’Sullivan will be using Wednesday’s race as the acid test for Waitak, who may change tack if he doesn’t look like running a strong middle distance.
“We really want to see Waitak settle and run the trip,” O’Sullivan said.
“His racing style suggests he will but he may have a little too much brilliance for a tough 2400m like the Derby.
“Sometimes a horse like him will get the Derby distance only as a three-year-old but if we think he is vulnerable then we will freshen him up and change tack with him.”
O’Sullivan doesn’t hold the same concerns for Devildom, rather he hopes that racing at this level will help iron out some wayward tendencies that may have cost him victory at his last start.
“He (Devildom) was just nutted last time after he put up some performance to win his maiden,” he said.
“He has taken improvement from it and he has a little bit of the unknown about him.
“He is very laid back and still quite new to the game but more racing will definitely be his friend and by Derby day he will be ready.”
O’Sullivan also confirmed that National Jockeys’ premiership leader Craig Grylls will partner Devildom on Wednesday while South African Craig Zackey will be aboard Waitak.
- Article by NZ Racing Desk