While originally tipped to bypass the 2012 Victoria Derby at Flemington Racecourse this Saturday, the Anthony Cummings-trained Fiveandahalfstar will be there in the big Group 1 showdown based on the advice of jockey Damien Oliver.
Oliver is booked to ride on the double-figure outsider in the $1.5 million AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) on the weekend, replacing Peter Robl who was aboard the progressive Hotel Grand gelding for their last start Rosehill win.
Fiveandahalfsar made it back-to-back wins in Sydney having broken their maiden status on October 17 at Canterbury over 1900m before their victory last Saturday over 1800m by an easy three lengths.
Three days later Oliver jumped in the saddle for a piece of trackwork at Caulfield aboard the horse and it was that ride which convinced the jockey Fiveandahalfstar could just have what it takes to match it with the best three-year-old stayers of the spring, Oliver in turn persuading Cummings to take them to the Melbourne Cup Carnival for the Group 1.
“Damien came and rode him on Tuesday morning at Caulfield and thought the Derby was where we should go,” Cummings said.
“There are lots of boxes he had ticked to make the Derby possible.
“It’s a tight time frame and he has had a lot of racing but he turned up in Melbourne in great shape.
The other option for $20,000 bargain buy was an easier Listed race for three-year-olds over 1800m next Thursday at Flemington’s Crown Oaks Day.
However Cummings is happy with the decision to go to the Derby believing Fiveandahalfstar will run a strong 2500m – the distance a query for all 16 runners.
“He’s big and strong. He enjoys his work and looks as if he will savour the 2500 metres,” he said.
This year’s Derby is certainly shaping up as a cracker with the latest bookmaker.com.au markets led by beaten Moonee Valley Vase favourite It’s A Dundeel ($2.80).
With three other single-figure fancies including surprise Vase winner Super Cool ($7), punters have to look a little further down the Victoria Derby betting markets to find Fiveandahalfstar who is paying $26 to score an upset.
Cummings admits that a big part of the reason they hadn’t been more focused on the Derby was because of Murray Baker’s flying Kiwi It’s A Dundeel who won all five of their opening starts, including Sydney’s Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes, before suffering their first loss last Saturday in the Vase.
“We paid up for the Derby all the way through but the way It’s A Dundeel dominated in Sydney put me off,” he said.
“I never like to go in with an expectation of running second and while the race wasn’t run to suit the other guy last week it proved he’s not infallible.”
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