The blinkers are going on the Chris Waller-trained Preferment when the promising colt takes on a top field of fellow three-year-olds in Saturday’s 2014 Victoria Derby.
There are still officially 27 youngsters vying for a spot in the capacity 16-starter $1.5 million Group 1 AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) field including Waller’s nicely-bred son of Zabeel.
Preferment remains a maiden after six career runs but has enjoyed four top three runs including his latest effort at Geelong on October 22.
There he was narrowly nudged out of a win in the Listed Geelong Classic (2200m) by fellow Victoria Derby hope, the Anthony Freedman-trained Nozomi.
Both colts improved notably in the futures Victoria Derby odds at Ladbrokes.com.au after the run, especially Preferment who now occupies the second line of betting.
Victoria Derby markets are led by Gai Waterhouse’s Spring Champion Stakes winning Sydney visitor Hampton Court ($2.80) while fellow Sydneysider Preferment is at $6.
Nozomi meanwhile pays $15, the son of Street Cry at a nice price after the Geelong Classic success where Dwayne Dunn had the ride.
Waterhouse prepared the 1995 Victoria Derby winner Nothin’ Leica Dane but Waller is yet to saddle-up a champion in the three-year-olds’ classic.
He’s hoping that can change this weekend on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the four-time Sydney premiership winning horseman adding blinkers to Preferment’s gear in an attempt to sharpen him up.
He worked in the shades this morning during Flemington trackwork where he ran alongside stable mate Moriarty who heads towards the $1 million Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) on Saturday.
The pair ran the final 1000m in a smart 1.08.87 with the closing sectional of 24.69 seconds being the fourth fastest at the course proper of the morning behind only Deep Field, Slade Power and Let’s Make Adeal.
Noted Flemington clocker Warren Huntly was particularly impressed with Preferment’s run, the addition of blinkers doing wonders.
“I thought he finished off really strongly,” he said. “He was certainly sharper in the blinkers.”
Waller last ran Preferment in blinkers when second behind subsequent Listed Dulcify Quality (1600m) runner-up Duccio in a three-year-olds’ maiden plate over 1550m at Canterbury on September 24.
Also boosting Waller’s confidence ahead of Victoria Derby Day is the fact the spacier track at Flemington looks to suit his youngster who is looking to become the first maiden to win the race in over 20 years.
“Preferment will enjoy Flemington, he needs the big track as it will help the race unfold for him,’’ Waller told the Daily Telegraph.
The last Victoria Derby winner to break their maiden status in the race was Redding back in 1992, but Waller isn’t worried about the hoodoo knowing the pedigree and form of his horse is spot on.
“He’s still a maiden but his Geelong run as very good. He’s a really promising horse and just getting it worked out now,” he said.
“He’s by the right stallion in Zabeel for the Derby, too.”
Zabeel has sired a host of champions over the years but his sole Victoria Derby winner was Efficient back in 2006 who went on to win the next season’s Melbourne Cup.
“I haven’t trained many Zabeels because I couldn’t afford to buy those high-priced yearlings by him and wait for them to develop over two or three years,” Waller explained.
“This is the reason we went to England and started buying the tried horses.
“As we become stronger at the sales, the Zabeels have been few and far between.”
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