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Even co-trainer Tom Dabernig admits he would be surprised to see the stable’s Australian Derby 2016 chance Sovereign Nation defeat the odds-on favourite Tarzino in Saturday’s staying showdown at Randwick Racecourse.
The second of four elite levels on the card for Day 1 of ‘The Championships’, a field of 13 top three-year-olds are in the mix for this year’s $2 million Group 1 BMW Australian Derby (2400m).
Sitting pretty at the top of the Australian Derby betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au is the Mick Price-trained Tarzino who won the Spring’s Victoria Derby over 2500m and comes off a gun lead-up success in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m).
Tarzino is at $1.85 and firming in the Australian Derby odds as the son of Tavistock looks to become the third favourite in four years to salute for the punters in the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival classic.
The rest of the field look to be fighting for second at best based on the top fancy’s credentials, something Dabernig is all too aware of with their runner Sovereign Nation who is at $31 for the upset.
“Tarzino is an exceptional horse and it’s hard to see him getting beaten,” he told Racing Victoria on Friday morning.
While Tarzino is drawn a treat in barrier six for his attempt at a rare Derby double, the Lindsay Park-raced Encosta De Lago colt Sovereign Nation is out to make up the ground from barrier 11.
It’s a hoodoo gate based on the race stats with the last Australian Derby winner to jump from 11 being Strawberry Road back in 1983.
Current New South Wales Jockeys Premiership leader Brenton Avdulla is booked for the ride chasing his first win in the mile and a half clash and takes over for Michael Walker in the saddle.
A winner of two of his nine starts to date, and yet to race at Randwick, Sovereign Nation hasn’t won a race since the Group 2 Stutt Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley back in early October last spring.
He finished a brave fourth next run as a 21/1 shot in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) behind the Chris Waller-trained winner Press Statement, but hasn’t been in the best form since.
His latest run showed he could be starting to return to his best as he improved on a ninth in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) to cross fourth to Old North in last Saturday’s Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
The Rosehill Guineas is the traditional ATC Derby lead-up producing six of the past seven winners, while the last horse to win the Derby on the quick back-up out of the Tulloch Stakes was Starcraft who completed the double in 2004.
Dabernig remains hopeful however, believing Sovereign Nation will run a good race and hopes the galloper is suited to the distance.
“I’d be a little surprised (if he won) but he hasn’t had a lot of luck all preparation,” he said.
“He keeps finding trouble but I do like him out to 2400m.
“He’s been set for this race, Sovereign Nation, so I’m sure he’ll run well.”
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