The VRC DERBY – 2500m 3YO G1 SW $1,500,000


The track is currently a Good 3, but there is a 70% chance of showers on Friday and 80% chance of 5mm-10mm rain on Saturday.

A small shower on Friday should have minimal impact and if there is no rain on Saturday then I’d expect the track to race evenly. However if there are showers on the day and the track becomes a Good 4 or worse, then look for the inside section to be inferior going and for horses running on away from the fence to be best suited.


Jadeer (4) has the speed to lead early and is then likely to face both Shards (11) and Ayers Rock (12) crossing over.  Away from these runners there is no other obvious speed in the Derby, but we could see one or two surprises with an unexpected runners pushing forward.

Ayers Rock has led his last two starts and set a better than average pace each time. He raced too keenly over 2000m last start and has a stack of gear changes for this race, no doubt designed to get him to settle better. However that style is hard to change from one run to the next.

I have to assume that as a minimum the pace here will be somewhere around genuine for this class of race, give to take a length or two either side.  If Ayers Rock can’t settle then it could end up much faster. Whatever the scenario, the likely pace combined with even track should give all runners a chance if good enough. Those coming from back will need to show good acceleration and speed over the last 800m, but it certainly won’t be an impossible task. Just as important to winning chances will be stamina and the ability to be strong over the final 200m of the race. Superiority in that area for younger horses is often more than enough to overcome any potential pace / position disadvantage.

Early Pace Rating: Average

Late Pace Rating: Average

Best Suited: Neutral – no particular style will be advantaged or disadvantaged


Below are the ratings that recent VRC Derby winners have run to:

  • 2014 – Preferment – 101
  • 2013 – Polanski – 105.5
  • 2012 – Fiveandahalfstar – 106
  • 2011 – Sangster – 100.5
  • 2010 – Lion Tamer – 106
  • 2009 – Monaco Consul – 102.5
  • 2008 – Rebel Raider – 106.5

The quality of the VRC Derby has varied over the years, which is not unusual for 3YO G1 races, especially over longer distances.

This year looks likely to be another low rating Derby with no runner in this race breaking the 100 WFA Performance Rating barrier in any of their lead up runs. Unusually the two key lead up races to the Derby this year, the 2040m Vase on Cox Plate day and 2000m Caulfield Classic on Caulfield Cup Day were both won by Fillies.

Analysis of this year’s field suggests that a rating of at least a 97 will be needed to be a winning chance, with the actual winning mark likely to fall in the 98 to 100 range.  Proven ability to reach that rating level or clear indicators that it’s probable in this race is essential to the winning prospects of a horse.

This year’s race comes down to 3 main chances for me

  • Tarzino
  • Kia Ora Koutou
  • Lizard Island

Runner by Runner

1. Lizard Island $7.50 MKT: $13.00

He’s an outstanding value runner in this race. His 1.8L 2nd to Press Statement in the Caulfield Guineas returned a 98.5 rating that is good enough to fight out the finish of this race. Then last start in the 2000m Caulfield Classic he had to do a stack of work early and his effort to finish 2nd, beaten only 1 length had plenty of merit. When the other horses were relaxing and settling into their rhythm in that race, Lizard Island was still working around the outside of the field to find a position. Even after doing that work and travelling on a strong speed all the way, he still gave a little kick in the straight and then fought on to hold off all but the winner Sacred Eye, finishing 2nd by 1 length. While the 95.2 rating from that run is just under the required standard here, there’s no doubt that without the effect of that early work, he would have rated higher, again right at the level needed to win this race. That run over 2000m is also more than acceptable indicator to me that he can handle the step to 2500m. Another big key here is that from barrier 3 he looks to jump out and naturally hold a position just off the leading group without doing any work at all. That’s a massive difference to the level of work he had to do early in the Caulfield Classic. A 2nd placing in the Caulfield Guineas, followed by a 2nd placing in the Caulfield Classic with hidden merit, both at a level good enough to win this race presents a very appealing profile, especially when combined with the prospect of getting a very easy run just off the lead. He may not have the same scope for improvement as some of the others in the race, but he’s already at a performance level that can win this race and the current market price is outstanding value.

2. Shards $26 MKT $14

Comes into this race off a 96 rating when 2nd in the Vase and can certainly be fitter on the 7 day back up here. However he had a clear track bias in his favour last start and slowed notably over the last 200m of the race after not going that hard early. That raises a big question whether he can elevate to a new peak over 2500m here, which will be needed to win the race.

3. Kia Ora Koutou $5.50 MKT $8

Comes over from Western Australia with an appealing profile of ratings quality and scope to improve to a new peak in this race. He’s unbeaten in 4 career runs so far and ran to a 97.2 rating last start when beating the older horses over 2200m at Ascot. A 1.3L win may not read that impressively, but the minimum weight in that race meant that he carried +4.5kg over WFA, effectively giving the runner up 6.5kg in weight. He came from the rear of a small field in a slow run race and did it easily, without really being asked for an all out effort. The nature of his win and the shape of the race speed / his individual sectionals is comparable to Fiveandahalfstar who produced a similar lead up run in a BM72 race at Rosehill before exploding to a new peak to win the 2012 VRC Derby. That’s not to suggest Kia Ora Koutou is going to be as good as Fiveandahalfstar was, but the reality is he doesn’t need to be anywhere near that level to win the Derby this year. He just needs to maintain his rating to be very competitive in this race and if he advances at all then he’ll be very hard to beat. As a big raw type suited over ground, I think the prospect of at least genuine pace in this race gives him the right scenario to run to a new career peak. At the current market price that profile contains great betting appeal.

4. Ayers Rock $126 MKT: $26

Only ran to an 89 rating level when too keen in front in the Caulfield Classic last start. His prior peak of 93 is also still well short of the standard needed to win this. It’s impossible to forecast him running a big new career peak stepping up to 2500m.

5. Man Of Choice $51 MKT $21

Comes off a solid 3rd placing in the Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) behind Vanbrugh which gives him a 94.5 rating leading into this race. He didn’t’ really attack the line as well as some of the others in this race and is likely to be either giving them a big start from a wide draw or will do some early work to push forward. That doesn’t give me any reason to think he can suddenly elevate to a significant new peak.

6. Extra Choice $14 MKT: $13

Was impressive winning the Geelong Derby Trial (2200m) in what is the fastest overall time rating race of the lead up form into this. He earned a 97.1 rating from that run, which puts him right in the winning mix here. A feature of that Geelong win was just how sweetly he travelled, even as they turned for home when most of the others runners we under full pressure. Given the strong speed in the race, it showed that he has plenty of staying talent. The downside to his chances is that from a wide draw he’s likely to be a long way back here and giving them a big start. That turns me off him from a betting perspective, but it would not surprise me at all if he was to win the race, he clearly has the talent to do so. Definitely include him in multiples and Quaddies.

7. Tarzino $2.90 MKT: $2.50

His run last week in the Vase was enormous. He was a long way back in the field on a track that was significantly biased towards the fence and then faced a big increase in race speed from the 800m, which meant he had to work hard to make up any ground in the race. He did that around the outside of the field which was a disadvantage on the day and managed to run on for 3rd with clearly the best rating last 800m of any runner on the day. His overall rating from that run was 95, but there’s no doubt that the merit of the performance suggests he is clearly better than that. Up to 2500m at Flemington looks to present an ideal scenario for him to reach a big new career peak here, but just how high is very much speculative. That obvious potential to improve and rate higher clearly suggests he is the top chance in this race, but the current market price is very much rock bottom odds. Value depends on the market underestimating something in the winning prospects of a horse or grossly over estimating the chances of other key runners in the market. That doesn’t appear to be evident here, so it’s hard to assess the current quote as anything but slightly under the odds. I don’t want to lose on the race if Tarzino wins, but the edge simply isn’t there in the current price to want to play him as a key result.

8. Get The Picture $31 MKT: $12

Ran on soundly late for a 2.5L 4th behind Sacred Eye in the Caulfield Classic and looks one that should be suited stepping up to 2500m. However he only carries a 93 rating into this race and the leap needed to reach the winning zone for this race is significant. Another key observation is that he doesn’t seem to have much acceleration or sectional speed to me and instead makes the biggest impression late in the race, greatly narrowing the margin, but never looking like the winner. That makes a step to 2500m a plus, but it doesn’t suddenly turn a moderately competitive horse into a star. That type of gradual closing run is very much overvalued form in races like the VRC Derby, especially when ratings are below the winning standard. A frantic pace up front would bring him in as a better chance, but on the assessment of likely pace I can’t have any part of him at $12.

9. Etymology $21 MKT: $18

Comes off a 1.2L 3rd in the Caulfield Classic with a 95 rating and perhaps could have done a bit more if clear earlier in the straight. That’s not too far away from the winning zone here and the step up to 2500m looks no problem for him. He’s not a key winning chance, but is certainly far from hopeless.

10. Jadeer $26 MKT: $26

He stuck on particularly well in the Geelong Derby Trial to be 2nd beaten just 0.8L by Extra Choice after racing handy to a strong pace. There’s doesn’t appear to be much potential for improvement, but he’s certainly capable of finishing in the top 5 or 6.

11. Palace Tycoon $81 MKT $41

His peak ratings are in the 89-90 range, which is too far below the standard required in this race to be considered a threat.

12. Scaddens Run $201 MKT: $61

Peak ratings in the 88-89 range are nowhere good enough to be a factor in this race.

13. Pay Up Bro $26 MKT: $12

Comes off a 1.6L 3rd to Extra Choice in the Geelong Derby Trial, but is another that appears to lack a meaningful turn of foot to me. He was under pressure a long way out in the race, while many others were still on the bit and just worked home without ever looking like a winning chance. 2500m appears suitable, but it seems unlikely to suddenly elevate him to the level needed to win this race. $12 seems well under the odds.

14. Colonel Custer $51 MKT: $26

Had no luck in the Geelong Derby Trial and should run new career peak here, but there’s nothing in his exposed figures to suggest he’s good enough to be a serious threat. What I will say is that Phil Stokes has a phenomenal record when racing his horses in Melbourne, they seem to regularly run to new peaks. Perhaps one to include for 3rd place in multiple bets.

15. Red Alto $251 MKT: $101

Doesn’t look anywhere near good enough to win this race.

16. Iron Boss $151 MKT: $41

Blinkers go on for the first time but he appears to need much more than that to elevate from an 88 peak to be competitive in this race.

17. Bullish Stock $101 MKT: $101

Had no luck in the Geelong Derby Trial, but prior ratings are not there to suggest he can be a factor in this race.


I want to bet around my two big value runners in this race and save on Tarzino.

For every $100 you want to invest on the race, stake in the following ratio:

 BACK (WIN) Lizard Island – WIN $26

 BACK (WIN)Kia Ora Koutou – WIN $36

 BACK (WIN)Tarzino – WIN $38

If Lizard Island or Kia Ora Koutou wins then there will be a good profit, while if Tarzino wins, your total investment on the race will be returned, give or take a few dollars.

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