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Hong Kong-based hoop Zac Purton returns to Oz this weekend having been booked to ride Rock Diva in Saturday’s 2014 Queensland Derby, replacing Tye Angland in the saddle.
On Sunday Purton enjoyed a treble of wins back in Hong Kong taking his tally to 100 winning rides there for the season.
This weekend then he’ll be shoot for success at elite level back home aboard Tony Pike’s Kiwi filly Rock Diva in the $500,000 Group 1 Channel Seven Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm Racecourse.
The daughter of Lucky Unicorn has her third run down under in the Derby after two unplaced Brisbane runs earlier this Queensland Racing Carnival.
A Group 3 winner back home in New Zealand, and third behind Miss Mossman after racing wide throughout the Group 1 NZ Oaks (2400m) in mid-March, Rock Diva debuted at Doomben two back.
She had a luckless run in the Group 2 The Roses (2000m) getting caught back, running into trouble throughout the run and only just getting into the clear late.
Eventually running sixth to Arabian Gold, Rock Diva made up plenty of ground in the closing stages of The Roses before backing up in the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2400m) last Saturday.
There she suffered an early blow coming up with the extreme outside barrier 18, which has never produced a Queensland Oaks winner.
Rock Diva then was far from disgraced, especially after a poor decision by Angland to allow her to drift out to the middle of the track, when three lengths away fourth behind Tinto.
“If she’d drawn an alley she’d have won the race,” Pike, who later celebrated the QTC Cup win with the now confirmed Stradbroke Handicap starter Sacred Star, told the New Zealand Herald.
Rex Lipps’ Toowoomba filly Tinto turned the tables on Arabian Gold after running a luckless second to her in The Roses.
The Oaks performance by the third placegetter was enough to convince the Cambridge-based Pike that Rock Diva could back-up again over the same track and distance this weekend going up against the boys in the Derby.
“They’re only three once and she can have a good long spell when she gets home and come back for the Cups’ races in the summer and autumn,” he said.
While Angland rode the filly for the first time in the Oaks she will have a jockey change for this weekend with Purton jumping on, connections opting for the shift after being unhappy with how she was ridden in the Oaks.
In the pre-field Queensland Derby odds Rock Diva is paying $11 to become the first filly since Dariana (2010) to win the classic.
The shortest-priced female in the markets this year meanwhile is Telepathic, the fellow Kiwi-trained youngster paying $9.50 after easing out following her fifth in the Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) on May 24.
Grand Prix Stakes winner Vilanova is the Queensland Derby favourite then for Chris Waller.
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