The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
The Chris Waller-trained Riff Rocket is tipped to return to winning form when stepping out over more distance in the 2023 Victoria Derby field this weekend at Flemington.
The four-day Melbourne Cup Carnival kicks off on Saturday with Derby Day headlined by a capacity field of three-year-old stayers in the Group 1 $2 million Victoria Derby (2500m).
A three-time winner from six starts the up-and-comer was good too back at the track dominating the Listed Super Impose Stakes (1800m) by 5.5 lengths.
He then finished runner-up narrowly denied by Sunsets as the beaten odds-on favourite at Caulfield in the Group 3 Caulfield Classic (2000m) with excuses.
This weekend he is tipped to get the run of the race back at headquarters from barrier five.
Recent Cox Plate winning jockey James McDonald, gearing up for his ride on the defending champ Gold Trip in Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup field, continues associations on the hard-to-beat Derby favourite who is out to atone for the punters.
Waller is after his third Victoria Derby trophy having previously won with Preferment (2014) and Manzoice (2022) last year.
The danger occupying the second line of Victoria Derby betting in 2023 is the Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Group 2 Moonee Valley Vase winner Apulia.
Mark Zahra, who will partner Without A Fight in the Melbourne Cup next week, is set to get a charmed run on the nicely-bred colt from barrier three.
Apulia is a son of former Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente so is bred to stay.
His Vase win was by an impressive two lengths and he looks a genuine shot to do the Vase – Derby double for the first time since Efficient (2006).
The only other single-figure fancy at current Victoria Derby odds of $7 is the Robbie Griffiths and Mattew de Kock-trained Verdad in barrier four for jockey Jye McNeil.
The progressive Justify gelding is after his first win since a successful debut at Bendigo back in mid-September.
He has been quickly pushed through the grades with a close second in the Group 2 Stutt Stakes (1600m) and then credible sixth at big odds to Griff in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m).
At his latest he was two lengths second to Apulia in the Vase and could surprise over a trip.
The other best out of the Vase backing-up in this year’s Derby is the third place-getter Air Assault for Morphettville-based horseman Andrew Gluyas.
Another son of Justify, the gelding won the Listed Hill Smith (1800m) at home by a big margin before the Vase placing and is at $14 to handle his Group 1 assignment this weekend.
The others being kept relatively safe in the markets include the Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young-trained Caulfield Classic winner Sunsets ($12) who suffered an early blow with the outside barrier (16) and third place-getter out of the same lead-up Gates ($15) for Peter Moody & Katherine Coleman.
2023 Victoria Derby Final Field & Barrier Draw
|No||Last 10||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Probable Weight||Penalty||Hcp Rating|
|1||242×12841||APULIA||Ben, Will & JD Hayes||Mark Zahra||3||57kg||88|
|2||1262||VERDAD||Robbie Griffiths & Mathew de Kock||Jye McNeil||4||57kg||76|
|3||x6551x4413||AIR ASSAULT||Andrew Gluyas||Ben Allen||6||57kg||74|
|4||17×1212||RIFF ROCKET||Chris Waller||James McDonald||5||57kg||80|
|5||4×5251241||SUNSETS||Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young||John Allen||16||57kg||80|
|6||2569×80772||MAKE A CALL||Peter & Paul Snowden||Ms Jamie Kah||15||57kg||64|
|7||23116||GOLD BULLION (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Opie Bosson||13||57kg||70|
|8||78×13||GATES||Peter G Moody & Katherine Coleman||Luke Nolen||14||57kg||70|
|9||1203||KOSGEI||Trent Busuttin & Natalie Young||Blake Shinn||12||57kg||64|
|10||01054||BULAWAYO||Pat Carey & Harris Walker||Ms Celine Gaudray (a)||7||57kg||63|
|11||3×4214||SACRED EAGLE||Symon Wilde||Jordan Childs||2||57kg||63|
|12||7×4311||ROGUERY||Lloyd Kennewell & Lucy Yeomans||Billy Egan||1||57kg||66|
|13||9612||MERCANTE||Nigel Blackiston||Damien Oliver||11||57kg||63|
|14||417||TO BE FRANK (NZ)||Ciaron Maher & David Eustace||Jamie Spencer||10||57kg||63|
|15||24431||WARIALDA WARRIOR||John Ramsey||Darryl McLellan||9||57kg||60|
|16||5×32525||TOKYO RUN (NZ)||Dean Mirfin||8||57kg||59|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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