Trainer Colin Little, who bought Vegas Knight for $180,000 at Karaka. Photo: AAP
Trainer Colin Little has always felt Vegas Knight (Declaration of War) had the potential to win a Derby in Australia.
But the chances of Vegas Knight, who was purchased out of Highden Park’s 2018 New Zealand Bloodstock draft, contesting a Derby hinge on his performance at Sandown on Saturday.
The South Australian Classic on Saturday week is the final Group One Derby in Australia this season.
Little deliberately bypassed the Victoria Derby with Vegas Knight in the spring while a setback ended hopes of an Australian Derby start in early April.
Because of COVID-19 bringing about a restructure of the Brisbane winter carnival, the Queensland Derby will not be run this season.
That leaves the Derby in Adelaide and to head there Vegas Knight needs to win, or run extremely well, in Saturday’s Honouring Victoria Police Handicap (2100m).
Little thought Vegas Knight was on target after a satisfactory performance when sixth in the Easter Cup (2000m) at Caulfield on April 11.
The trainer said the three-year-old was badly weighted against higher rated and older opposition and also covered ground during the race.
Things then started to go awry.
Little planned to start Vegas Knight last week in the Chairman’s Stakes (2035m) at Morphettville, won by Derby favourite Dalasan (Dalakhani), but that was abandoned after the gelding returned a poor blood count.
To compound Little’s woes he has been unable to engage a Derby jockey for Vegas Knight.
“I wanted to run in Adelaide last week but he had a little setback and now we are faced with the situation of running a week out from the Derby without a (Derby) rider in place,” Little said.
“With a cloud hanging over him we didn’t do any work on trying to find a jockey plus we also have to run on a heavy track ahead of going to Adelaide a week later.
“Anyway we’ll see how we go on Saturday and then make a decision after that.”
Little said Vegas Knight had picked up well and put in a strong gallop on the course proper at Caulfield on Tuesday.
Vegas Knight will be joined at Sandown by stablemate Vassilator (NZ) (Zacinto) in the Ladbrokes Money Back Odds Handicap (1400m).
Vassilator returned from a spell to finish second to Order Of Command (Squamosa) at Caulfield on April 11 and Little sees the 1400m and heavy track being a plus for the gelding.