Featuring as the major event on an impressive Royal Randwick race card in day 1 of The Championships this weekend, the 2014 Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) will feature a capacity field of 18 runners, offering punters sensational value in betting markets.
Having returned to the track in scintillating form this preparation, Criterion is currently offered as clear $3.40 favourite for success in the 2014 Australian Derby ahead of Puccini and Thunder Fantasy; currently sharing the second line of betting at generous $7 odds.
Will Criterion make it two Group 1 titles on the trot, or will one of his talented opponents break through to win Saturday’s feature race?
Thunder Fantasy ($7)
Returning to the track in arguably career-best form this preparation, Thunder Fantasy strolled home to win the Group 2 Autumn Stakes (1400m) by two lengths first-up on February 8th before producing a strong turn of foot to finish third in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m). While unable to figure in the Australian Cup just one week later, the Lucky Owners colt hit peak condition when second in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) last time out. Allocated the ideal barrier 8 for the 2014 Australian Derby, Thunder Fantasy appears on the verge of a major Group 1 title, and will again be partnered by champion jockey Damien Oliver this weekend.
Unlucky not to claim a Group 1 victory prior to the Rosehill Guineas last time out, Criterion has claimed an impressive four wins and four places from only 15 race starts, and is offered a good opportunity to build on his strong record this weekend, having received the ideal inside gate at Tuesday’s barrier draw. Underling the Derby as the major target for the Sebring colt at the beginning of his preparation, trainer David Payne is confident of success this weekend, particularly with last start jockey Hugh Bowman retained for the ride.
Hitting career best form in his native New Zealand when strolling home to win the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) on March 1st, Puccini locked in an early pace battle with major rival Shamus Award in the Rosehill Guineas last time out, and while jumping as outright pre-post favourite, was unable to maintaining an early sprint and finished a disappointing 12th. While unhappy with the less-than-convincing first-up result, trainer Peter McKay is confident Puccini will be far more polished over the greater distance of 2400 metres, and is happy with the prospect of leaving from the central barrier 11 in the Australian Derby.
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