Gold Coast trainer Helen Page has had Saturday’s Queensland Derby 2014 on the agenda for her up-and-coming stayer Rudy since they were first stepped up to a mile back in July last year.
It’s been a long time in the planning then to have the Red Dazzler ready for their shot at the $500,000 Group 1 Channel Seven Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm.
They’re not bred to stay being by Toorak Handicap winner Red Dazzler out of Success Express mare Go Now Go, but he’s always shown ability over more distance than their pedigree suggests they would like.
“We don’t believe the 2400m will be a problem for him,” Page told The Daily Telegraph.
“I know he is by Red Dazzler but that horse sired the (Queensland) Oaks winner (Tinto) last week.”
He kicked off with a disappointing failure at Eagle Farm over 1000m but quickly atoned for that luckless run with back-to-back wins firstly over 1200m at the Gold Coat by five lengths and then over the Eagle Farm mile by two lengths last winter.
During the summer they had hit-and-miss form but showed again they could handle more ground when blocked for a run over 1800m at home in early January to finish under two lengths off the winner in a 3YO handicap.
This season has been their most improved and promising yet with two wins and two thirds from five runs since March 29, good form for the Derby according to their trainer.
“Rudy won over 1600m as a two-year-old so we felt even then that he could be a Derby horse,” she said.
“He has kept improving every preparation. He’s a really nice horse, easy to train, although he has got a bit of character about him around the stables.
“He likes to stand over you, he wants to let you know he’s boss.”
One of the top Queensland-trained chances in this year’s Derby, Rudy pays $12 in markets led by the Troy Corstens-trained Victorian Pinstripe Lane ($4.80) and Chris Waller’s Sydneysider Vilanova ($5).
The price is one that would likely be shorter if Rudy hadn’t drawn the far outside barrier for their bid in the Classic.
To help the in-form galloper overcome barrier 18 of 18 and score an upset Queensland Derby result though is a top hoop in Hugh Bowman.
“Obviously I would have liked a better barrier but that is why you put the top jockeys on in these big races,” Page said.
“I’ve done my job, the horse is fit and ready to go, it is up to Hugh and Rudy now.”
Currently on a riding stint in Hong Kong the Sydney-based Bowman, like young Tommy Berry, returns from overseas for a ride on Stradbroke Handicap Day.
He was in Australia and aboard the three-year-old for the first time on May 24 when Rudy had their Derby lead-up in the Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m).
There they had the inside alley in a 14-horse field and crossed second behind Vilanova finding the line well, but were regulated to third behind Pinstripe Lane on protest.
It’s an effort that had Bowman reporting back with positive notes to Page regarding their chances for the Group 1.
“Hugh jumped off the horse after the race and said straight away he was very happy with the run and would like to return and ride him in the Derby,” Page said.
“As a trainer, that is just what you want to hear from your jockey.”
Page and Bowman have combined before for Group 1 success with Doonan in the 2004 Golden Rose and she’s hoping it will be a case of history repeating itself on Saturday.
“I’ve had a bit of luck with Hugh,” Page said.
“But he doesn’t ride for me often as with smaller stables like mine, you may only get that one really good horse every 10 years or so.
“This makes it hard to get the top jockeys like Hugh to ride for you.”
There’s also another history line to follow that indicates Rudy could win.
The youngster is his trainer’s maiden Derby runner despite Page having been in the training game for the best part of 30 years.
However this story goes even further back than that when, half a century ago, her husband John Page trained champion three-year-old Royal Sovereign for the rare triple state Derby hat-trick winning the Australian Derby in Sydney, Melbourne’s Victoria Derby and then the Queensland edition.
To this day they are one of only three horses to complete the treble along with the Tommy Smith-trained pair of Tulloch (1957) and Silver Sharpe (1970).
Like Rudy is for Page’s wife, Royal Sovereign was the now 83-year-olds’ maiden Derby starter and Helen is more than happy to soak up any nuggets of advice her husband hands down these days.
“John doesn’t come to trackwork anymore but he often gets down to the stables during the day,” she said.
“He still has an input, words of advice here and there.”
Bowman is also in line for an historic Derby win out to join Ray Selkrig (Royal Sovereign) and George Moore (Tulloch) as the only two hoops to win all three Derbies in a single season.
He won last year’s Victoria Derby aboard Polanski and was in Sydney for the winning ATC Australian Derby victory with Criterion; mounting pressure then for Saturday.
If you think Rudy and Bowman can ride their way into the Queensland Derby history books on Saturday then get behind them online at the best price through Ladbrokes.com.au today!