Saturday’s Group 3 2013 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) at Doomben stands as a crucial lead-up to the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) which will take place at Eagle Farm on June 8.
Derby favourite Survived is missing from the Grand Prix field but there are plenty of quality young stayers ready to press their claims.
Current favourite for the race is Rough Habit Plate winner Hawkspur ($4.20) who is narrowly ahead of Usainity ($5) and Dear Demi ($7) in betting.
The top three are hard to knock but there could be some value with some of the lesser-known hopes and one who has caught the eye is Murray Baker–trained Kiwi Ambitious Champion.
#12 Ambitious Champion $9
Couldn’t believe when this emerging stayer drifted to $61 in the Queensland Derby pre-post market earlier in the week. Stablemate Usainity is far more favoured in betting but I get the feeling this could be Baker’s number one Derby hope.
Has a tricky barrier 15 draw for his Australian debut this weekend but has impressed so far in six starts across the Tasman. By Zed, who also sired Usainity and Survived, he’ll chase a third straight win on Saturday.
It’s worth checking out the replay (all available free of charge on the New Zealand racing official site) of his most recent win over 2000m at Te Rapa. Turning for home he copped a seriously nasty check which forced him wide on the track. But in a mature performance he recovered, balanced up and unleashed a sharp turn of foot to reel in the field for a narrow win.
Four starts back he missed the start horribly in a 1600m race and was as far as 12 lengths off the field. After doing plenty of work to catch up he still showed a big sprint finish and only narrowly missed out on making it into the winner’s stall.
A stayer with serious potential.
#8 Rhythm To Spare $8
From the yard of Flemington trainer Michael Moroney, this son of Pins heads to Doomben for just his fifth career start.
He’s rising in class considerably but back-to-back wins at Bendigo and Sandown suggested he has plenty of improvement to come and is likely to appreciate the step up in distance.
Yet to finish worse than second in his four trips to the track.
#4 Usainity $5
Murray Baker knows how to get them firing and Usainity hasn’t given any reason to think he can’t be a top-three finisher in the Derby.
Has a runner-up finish to Survived in New Zealand on his resume and has won the Frank Packer Plate and run third in the Rough Habit since coming to Australia. Hasn’t missed a place from three career starts.
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