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Local Eagle Farm-based trainer Barry Baldwin has a strong contingent of runners at this Saturday’s Stradbroke Handicap Day but it is his in-form three-year-old Mr Light Blue in the Queensland Derby who he is most looking forward to saddling up.
Fantastic Light gelding Mr Light Blue has been in solid form this prep, but is rated a $21 outsider in the markets for the $500,000 Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400m) due to his extreme outside barrier draw.
Even with Michael Moroney today announcing the early withdrawal of his Derby contender Quarterbar (barrier 14) due to a tendon injury, and if the four remaining emergencies don’t gain a start, Mr Light Blue will still be jumping from barrier 18 of 18 on Saturday.
“The barrier hasn’t been kind to us again,” Baldwin admitted.
“The alley didn’t give us much choice and we’ll have to go forwards.
“Would have been ideal to have a good barrier, that way we could have sat in behind them.”
While the barrier is an issue everything else about Mr Light Blue, an eleventh hour acceptor for the race, is spot on according to Baldwin including his most final lead-up run heading into the Queensland Derby.
At his last start, Mr Light Blue came within a short half-head of running down winner Turnitup in the Group 3 Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) at Doomben on May 28.
The result and finish was an impressive effort from the horse, Mr Light Blue having jumped from another horror barrier 13 before being forced to run wide in the early stages.
As a $26 outsider in the Grand Prix, Mr Light Blue’s run would likely have gone unnoticed by many, but not by Baldwin who rated it the best of the race and a big effort.
“It was a great run,” Baldwin said.
“We were very happy with the way he performed and I thought he was a big unlucky.
“He sat three, four wide going out and on the straight he had to go forwards…something he’s never done before.
“He sat outside the hardest one to beat in Alma’s Fury.
“Really surprised me the way he got home.”
In his previous start before the Grand Prix, Mr Light Blue scored an emphatic two and a half length win over Crafty Lady in a 2150m race at Ipswich on May 20, which was his second win on the trot at the track and his third career victory.
Originally Baldwin did not have Mr Light Blue nominated for the Queensland Derby, the grey gelding having only raced in a handful of maiden races last spring / summer before showing little form in their early races this year.
“I didn’t nominate him for the Derby,” Baldwin admitted, saying the fact Mr Light Blue had been beaten by over eight lengths in a Class 1 race at the Sunshine Coast during April had him “very disappointed” with the gelding.
“We decided to try him over a bit further,” Baldwin said.
“The moment we stepped him up to the mile he showed improvement.”
This has given Baldwin hope that Mr Light Blue will step up to the 2400m of the Derby without too much trouble on Saturday, a distance he is not really bred to run.
Champion hoop Chris Munce has been booked to ride Mr Light Blue in the Derby on Saturday for the first time, Munce vying for his second Queensland Derby victory having partnered with Valance for their victory in 1996.
Aside from Mr Light Blue, Baldwin has five other horses from his stables running in races at Eagle Farm this Saturday including Havatryst in the closing Stradbroke Handicap Day event, the $250,000 Group 2 Queensland Guineas (1600m).
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