Melbourne Cup Day might attract more mainstream attention, but with four Group 1 events, Victoria Derby Day is known as ‘racing’s Grand Final day’.
It is now the best-attended meeting of the Spring Racing Carnival and another huge crowd will be on hand at Flemington for a day headlined by the $1.5 million Victoria Derby.
The field for the 2500m race for three-year-old stayers is eclectic – featuring a Group 1 winner in favourite Sacred Elixir, and a runner yet to win a race – but with plenty of mystery about which horses will run out the distance, it is a must-watch race.
The Derby also proves to be an excellent guide for future stars, with six of the race’s last eight winners proving to be multiple Group 1 winners.
Sacred Elixir’s trainer Tony Pike is confident ahead of Saturday’s main race.
“He’s moving well. He’s nice and relaxed, I couldn’t be happier with his condition,” he told The New Daily.
“No excuses for Saturday – hopefully he gets a trouble-free run.”
Among the favourite’s main rivals are So Si Bon, the Ciaron Maher-trained Beach Life and Prized Icon.
Riding So Si Bon is three-time Derby winner Hugh Bowman, and trainer Robbie Laing – who guided Polanski to 2013 Derby success – said the star jockey is happy with his ride.
“He [Bowman] came in and said, ‘I think we’re in business, boss’,” Laing told The New Daily after trackwork.
The runner-by-runner form guide
Won well last start and claimed Group 1 in Brisbane this winter. Deserves favouritism.
Has form around Cox Plate placegetter Yankee Rose. Forgive his last run.
Stable have always had the Derby in their sights. Can’t discount.
Ran some good seconds behind Wine Bush and Good Standing. Barrier a concern.
Strong finisher last week at big odds. Six placings in nine starts, too.
Tough draw but is in decent form.
Was on speed in his Geelong Classic win. Fourth run at Flemington so knows track.
Finished well back last week but beat home Morvada the start prior in Adelaide. He’ll get back and run on.
The UCI Stakes winner. The ‘Magic Man’ Moreira goes on. He’ll need his wand to win from this draw.
Placegetter last week who has been very consistent at Group level in his past three.
A get-back horse who flashed from last to fifth in the UCI Stakes. Could place off a similar run.
Third in UCI Stakes earlier this month but struggled last run.
Flashed home last start in very impressive fashion. Maher-Hall combination won Caulfield Cup. Really like.
Like Beach Life, finished strongly to finish fourth last time out. Can’t rule out Waller horses.
Only horse in the field yet to win a race.
Hasn’t been in the finish in his last three runs. Prefer others.
Started favourite in four of five starts. Finally won last time out.
Only Derby horse to have won at the 2400m – and it was last start.
Needs a run. And rain.
Luke Sheehan’s Victoria Derby selections:
1: Beach Life
2: Sacred Elixir
3: So Si Bon
4: Prized Icon
Other Group 1 Tips:
Cantala Stakes: Palentino
Coolmore Stud Stakes: Flying Artie
Myer Classic: Don’t Doubt Mamma
Luke Sheehan is a journalist at racing.com