Lark Hill-based trainer Adam Durrant is confident his progressive three-year-old WA raider Kia Ora Koutou can retain his undefeated status when debuting in Melbourne and black-type company with a Flemington run in Saturday’s Victoria Derby 2015.
One of 34 three-year-olds entered for the $1.5 million Group 1 AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, the Perth visitor has won all four of his career starts to date.
All four of the Blackfriars gelding’s victories were achieved in Western Australia, the Derby Kia Ora Koutou’s first interstate run.
It is also the first time the ultra-consistent youngster races not just in Group 1 company but in a black-type race giving him a tough class rise to handle to be competitive on the weekend.
Unlike a host of his rivals who see over 1600m and or 2000m for the very first time in the capacity 16-starter Victoria Derby field, Durrant’s horse has winning form up to 2200m, a big plus heading into the 2500m Melbourne Cup Carnival classic.
Current Victoria Derby odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, who are offering Best Tote or SP + 20% on the full Flemington program on Saturday, at a firming $2.40 is the Mick Price-trained Tarzino.
The Tavistock colt confirmed his favouritism with an eye-catching Cox Plate Day run closing hard and fast on the Crown Oaks-bound winning filly Jameka when third in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Vase (2040m).
On the short turnaround and racing over further than the Vase distance for the first time on Saturday, Tarzino is out to complete the Vase – Derby double for the first time since the great grey Efficient (2006).
The last Victoria Derby winner to come out of the Vase though was the Murray Baker-trained Kiwi Lion Tamer who ran second in the Moonee Valley lead-up before his victory as a 12/1 shot five years ago.
Kia Ora Koutou occupies the second line of pre-field Victoria Derby betting at $7.50, a deserving price according to Durrant who saddles-up his first runner in the race shooting for his first Group 1 win in Melbourne after coming close with Mr Moet who was third to All Too Hard in the 2015 CF Orr Stakes at Caulfield.
“We went close [in Melbourne] with [Mr] Moet a couple of times and hopefully this is the one that can kick us off,” Durrant told The Age.
“If it was run in Perth, knowing how good he goes, I would be saying, ‘Good luck to them’.
“I couldn’t see him getting beat (at home). But we’re not in Perth and we’ve had to travel to a completely different scene.
“We’re not taking on Cox Plate horses, though. A lot of these horses are Class 1 horses and maidens.
“Who says they’re going to go on? I know this horse is going to go on and win 10 races, providing he has no issues.
“He’s well and truly going to be an open-class horse. Whether the other trainers think their horses are going to get to that level [I don’t know].
“If not, they’re in trouble because at worst this bloke would be a Perth Cup horse on his ear.”
Durrant won the 2015 Perth Cup in January with Real Love and could shoot for back-to-back wins in 2016 with Kia Ora Koutou who earned a trip to Victoria after his smart one and a quarter length win over 2200m at Belmont on October 3.
“I joked about it after he won his maiden,” Durrant said of a Victoria Derby bid.
“It got a little bit more serious after his next win and then his next one. I said after the mile if he can run well over 2200 [metres] against the older horses I’m going. He did the job.
“A few people have said, ‘You’ve come from Perth’, and I’ve said to them, ‘It takes you longer to get to some of your provincial meetings and horses are out of their stable for longer’.
“The biggest thing is how they handle the change in environment. He’s actually handled it perfectly well.”
Back your Derby Day selections online through Ladbrokes.com.au on Saturday at Best Tote or SP + 20% and also enjoy an Extra 50% on your first Fixed Odds win in Races 1 – 5 at Flemington!