McKay Hopeful of Improved Puccini in 2014 Australian Derby

New Zealand-based trainer Peter McKay is hopeful of a far-more convincing performance from talented stayer Puccini on day 1 of the inaugural The Championships at Royal Randwick this weekend after a horror debut run in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on March 29th.

Regular jockey Michael Walker lead Puccini to an early pace battle with Cox Plate/Australian Guineas champion Shamus Award in the Rosehill Guineas, and later reported his saddle had slipped; giving reason for the poor finish for 12th that day.

Gaining market favouritism heading into the Rosehill Guineas after strolling home to win the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) in his final start in his homeland prior to crossing the ditch, McKay has confirmed Puccini will line up in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) on Saturday, but is hopeful of a far clearer day and different approach from new jockey Craig Williams.

“I’m still not sure and hopefully we get some better weather this week” McKay told AAP.

“I am going to ride him in the morning but we can’t use the course proper. We have to use the Kensington track which is a dead five so that won’t really tell me if he does handle the heavy.

“Craig said he did on Saturday, so that’s all I can go on.”

Initially worried his stable’s star has taken more of a hit than a rise in form from the first-up run in the Rosehill Guineas, McKay confirmed the Encosta De Lago colt has taken to work well over the last fortnight and should line up for the Derby in good order.

“He has done really well and tightened up a bit” McKay said.

“I thought the Guineas might have taken something out of him but physically he is great.”

Winner of the Rosehill Guineas, Criterion is currently leading early betting markets for success in the 2014 Australian Derby ahead of Puccini, who currently occupies the second line of betting alone.

Rosehill Guineas placegetters Thunder Fantasy and Teronado currently appear as tied third favourites.

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