They face one of the strongest Derby line ups from any state in many years but on Saturday Pat Carey’s Victorian visitor Ethiopia is prepared to take on the big guns from Sydney and across the Tasman in the Australian Derby 2012 at Royal Randwick.
Of the 13 gallopers engaged for the $1.5 million Group 1 David Jones Australian Derby (2400m), running as Randwick Race 7 at 3:35pm, the now sole favourite is New Zealand-trained filly Silent Achiever.
Originally sharing her spot at the top of the Australian Derby odds at bookmaker.com.au with the Gai Waterhouse-trained Laser Hawk, winner of the Rosehill Guineas where Silent Achiever ran third as the beaten favourite, Roger James’ NZ Derby winning daughter of O’Reilly has now firmed in from $3.60 to $3.40 to win on Saturday.
Laser Hawk, meanwhile, has eased out from $3.60 to $3.80 after their wide barrier 11 draw.
The other top fancies in the markets are then fellow Kiwi Ocean Park ($5 into $4.60 @ bookmaker.com.au) who ran a slashing second in the Rosehill Guineas earning them a late Australian Derby entry, and upset Tulloch Stakes winner from last Saturday Polish Knight ($13).
Just a little further down the markets are then two $14 shots, Tulloch Stakes runner-up Rekindled Alliance and Ethiopia.
Lightly raced Helenus gelding Ethiopia, the only Victorian in the Australian Derby this year, will be having just their fourth career start on Saturday, the youngster to jump from gate 10 with Rhys McLeod in the saddle.
They remain a maiden yet to be first across the post but have been racing competitively since their third on debut at Sale back in early February.
Two back they ran a length and a half away third behind Upbeat in the Group 2 Autumn Classic (1800m) at Caulfield before their last start second to Highly Recommended in the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
Saturday sees them rise in class, distance and debut in Sydney but Carey remains hopeful of a good showing from Ethiopia.
“When you think they are good enough you have to have a go, you can’t win races staying at home,” Carey said yesterday.
“He might be lightly raced but he has certainly been well-schooled at home before he raced.
“I’ve got enough confidence in him going into the race.”
Carey is no stranger to an upset in a big race after his top stayer Cedarberg, also by Helenus, scored victory in last year’s Group 1 The BMW (2400m) as a $25 outsider.
In a devastating turn of luck the ill-fated Cedarberg died during track work last August as they prepared for the rich spring features including the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup.
Cedarberg was owned by the Wyadup Valley Farm Sydnicate who also race Ethiopia and Carey is optimistic that those connections can be repaid with another Group 1 win this weekend.
“He’s well suited getting to the (Derby) distance now and I know that he will run it out strongly,” Carey said.
“He’s had the right preparation and grounding for a race at this distance.
“We’ll find out whether he is good enough on Saturday.”
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