The step up to Group 1 company and the mile and a half might be a query for the John Sargent-trained Elusive Runner but trackwork rider Mitch Beadman believes them deserving of a shot at Saturday’s Queensland Derby 2014.
It seems the bookies agree with the assessment of the former hoop, son of champion jockey Darren Beadman, with Elusive Runner one of the top three chances in futures betting for the $500,000 Group 1 Channel Seven Queensland Derby (2400m).
The field for the Eagle Farm classic is due out later this morning, Encosta De Lago colt Elusive Runner guaranteed a start in the 18-runner field.
There they will be facing their first major test as the lightly-raced Sydneysider sees not only their first Group 1 field but their first Black Type.
Their latest start was at Randwick on May 24 when jumping from barrier 14 of 14 to finish second to Off The Rails in a Benchmark 73 over 2000m.
On Saturday they step up to 2400m, race against a much tougher field and make their interstate debut.
While these are all major hurdles, Elusive Runner has been kept safe in Queensland Derby betting with bookmakers taking no chances installing them as the equal second favourite behind Chris Waller’s Grand Prix Stakes winner Vilanova.
For all five of their runs to date the youngster has been ridden by Jason Collett.
Tommy Berry however has been booked for the Derby after Collett dropped the reins and tangled his whip when riding the horse last time out.
Elusive Runner was put through their paces by Beadman in trackwork all throughout the season including in a testing run over 2000m at Randwick on Monday.
The 24-year-old, who left the professional jockey arena for personal issues, is more than pleased with Elusive Runner this prep and believes they can handle the class rise this weekend.
“Every obstacle John has put in front of him he has jumped,” Beadman told The Daily Telegraph.
“He keeps rising to the occasion, and while I know it’s a big step up from a benchmark 73 to a Group 1, he definitely deserves his spot in the field.
“I’m not saying he’s a superstar, but he’s in a Queensland Group 1 up to his ears.”
Monday’s effort was the horse’s final piece of serious work before the Derby, Beadman especially happy with the way they finished off over the final 200m.
“He’s not a hard-going horse, he’s a free-running horse,” Beadman said commenting on a trait that should see them get out to the mile and a half on Saturday.
Trainer Sargent also believes Elusive Runner capable of getting the distance knowing he has the progressive stayer at peak fitness.
“The main thing is the horse is fit and he will get the trip,” Sargent said on Monday.
“The extra 400m does change things. You only had to look at Arabian Gold on the weekend. She was given a beautiful ride (in the Oaks), was there to win it, but couldn’t stay.
“I know this horse will keep working to the line. He’s that sort of horse. He did it this morning where he and Mitch kept going all the way past the gap where they come on to the track at the mile.”
Sargent is chasing his second Group 1 win down under for the season following the success of Kirramosa in the Group 1 VRC Oaks during the spring.
He also enjoyed the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks win back in his home country with Miss Mossman, but has only prepared a total of four Metropolitan wins for the season in Australia including Kirramosa’s Oaks success on the back of her Group 2 Wakeful Stakes win.
The run before the Wakeful Kirramosa ran second when ridden by Collett before Berry came in for the Wakeful Stakes run, form Sargent is hoping will repeat itself with Elusive Runner in the Derby.
Stay tuned to Races.com.au for the official Stradbroke Handicap Day fields due for release shortly.
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