By Adam Hamilton
NOT only is classy Kiwi three-year-old Smooth Deal in by far the strongest Victoria Derby heat, but he’s also got a wide draw to overcome.
Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s lone Derby contender has drawn gate six, second from the outside, in a heat which also boasts prepost Derby favourite Be Happy Mach (gate 10), other Kiwis Line Up (gate 3) and Bad To The Bone (nine), along with classy former Kiwi Virgil (five) and Emma Stewart’s pair Mach Dan (one) and Carlas Mach (two).
Remembering the three Derby heats at Ballarat on Saturday night, mean only the first four home are guaranteed a spot in the final at Melton a week later.
There’s loads of speed underneath Smooth Deal, but if Purdon goes back he will be behind main dangers like Be Happy Mach and Bad To The Bone.
The key runners in the first Derby heat are Emma Stewart’s Pacifico Dream (gate seven), the regally-bred and very exciting Soho Hamilton (nine) and emerging Youaremy Sunshine (10).
Exciting Queenslander Governor Jujon, a sparkling Group 2 Menangle winner last outing, holds the key from gate two in the second Derby heat. Other key runners are Stewart’s Gee Smith (one), Yejele Hammer (three), Mirragon (six) and Anthony Butt’s former Kiwi Perfect Stride (seven).
It is a similar story with star NZ filly Stylish Memphis in her heat of the Victoria.
Purdon confirmed he would be driving and looking after the filly for Mark Jones in Victoria, but she has a wide draw (gate six) to overcome in the first Oaks heats.
Stylish Memphis is drawn outside another Kiwi, Cran Dalgety’s Dr Susan, who sparkled winning at Group 2 level at Menangle last Saturday and packs plenty of gate speed.
One of Emma Stewart’s top Oaks hopefuls, Amelia Rose, has drawn the pole in that heat, but races better with a sit.
The other key runners in the heat are Stewart’s emerging and speedy Shesskylah and Adam Kelly’s classy and in-form Alice Kay, but they’ve drawn the back in gates 10 and 11 respectively.
Like the Derby, the Oaks heats go to the staying test of 2710m this year so that’ll test lots of the fillies who would never have been tested at the distance.
Stewart rates last season’s star juvenile Maajida here best Oaks hope and she’s drawn gate six in the second heat where the major rivals look to be stablemates Jemstone (eight) and Treasure (10).
There are only two heats of the Oaks.
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SURPRISINGLY, there isn’t a Kiwi in sight in the feature trot at Ballarat on Saturday night.
The Kiwis raiders are all waiting another week for the Group 1 Dullard Cup at Melton and another week later, the Group 1 Great Southern Star, also at Melton.
So Aussie star Tornado Valley looks the one to beat at Ballarat despite drawing the back row (gate nine) and not being able use his blazing gate speed in the Group 2 Cochran Trotters’ Cup (2200m).
Last year’s Great Southern Star winner, Dance Craze (gate eight), and former star juvenile Wobelee (10), are the other key runners.