Cambridge trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman have set their sights on another Derby triumph in Australia.
In the past 11 years, the stable has had success in seven trans-Tasman Derbys, including the 2010 Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington with Lion Tamer.
Baker and Forsman this week entered both Samarkand and Daario for this year’s race on October 30, with Mongolian Khan gelding Samarkand flying to Melbourne on Tuesday.
“It’s a long throw at the stumps, right from the boundary,” Baker said of his Derby bid.
“It’s just a nomination for them both. Daario is still a maiden but it looks like he’ll stay. We’ll find a 2000m maiden for him next week and see how he goes from there.
“We sent over Samarkand last night. We haven’t yet committed to a programme but he’s out of a three-quarter sister to Efficient and we think he can stay all right.”
Samarkand has had five starts, running fourth in the Listed Champagne Stakes (1600m) and fifth in the Listed Auckland Futurity (1400m), both at Ellerslie last season, before flanking a 7.25-length 1600m maiden win at Tauranga with second placings at his three starts so far as a three-year-old.
Bookmakers have Samarkand as a +3300 shot for the Victoria Derby, with Real Impact gelding Daario at +5000.
The odds will be shorter for The Chosen One when he tackles Saturday’s Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) under the 59kg topweight for rider Damian Lane at Caulfield.
“We’re happy with him. He’s got to carry 59 kilos which won’t be easy over 2400m but he won this race two years ago, albeit with less weight,” Baker said.
“We had to win it to get into the Caulfield Cup two years ago but he’s qualified for the Cups this year so we don’t have to worry about that.”
Baker said The Chosen One was likely to back up in the AUD$5 million Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) seven days later and then progress to the AUD$8 million Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 2.
“It’s hard to compare because I’m not there. It’s made it harder this time around, not being able to be over there,” Baker said.
Baker hasn’t yet ruled Quick Thinker out of the Cups in Melbourne yet either with the prospect of a wet October making travelling south an attractive option.
“We were disappointed with his run in the Metropolitan, he just never really got going. That track wasn’t wet enough for him. He needs it a lot wetter,” he said.
“He’s still in the Cups but we’ll just tread water at the moment. There’s the (ATC) St Leger in Sydney but it appears Melbourne is meant to get the rain. It’s forecast to be quite a wet October so we’ve always got an option to float him down there.”
The Chosen One is at +2000 for the Caulfield Cup, a race he ran third in last year, with Bookmakers and the same price for the Melbourne Cup, while Quick Thinker is at +10000 for both.
Closer to home, last start Group 3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) runner-up Mustang Valley will contest the Comag 1400 at Matamata on Saturday in preference to the Group 3 Wyndspelle @ Grangewilliam Stud Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) at Hawera, for which she had also been nominated.
“We’re happy with her. It will be a good test for her,” Baker said.
“It’s a pretty good field. It all depends how she goes, but we hope to make it to Christchurch with her. There’s still a lot of water to go under the bridge yet.”
Baker said safely through Saturday’s race Mustang Valley would contest the Group 3 Soliloquy Stakes (1600m) at Matamata on October 23 as a lead-up to the Group 1 Barneswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton on November 13.
Francesca was ruled out of last week’s Group 3 Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni with a niggling injury to a hind leg and Baker said while she was over that now, there hadn’t been sufficient time for her to prepare for the Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes.
“We haven’t got her next race mapped out yet but she seems right again,” Baker said.
Baker and Forsman will go into the Listed Team Wealleans Matamata Cup (1600m) with both Group One performer Frontman and Spring Delight.
“We’re happy with the work of them both so they’ll take their chance,” Baker said.
“Frontman showed a fair bit last year. We’re hoping for a good run from him. He’ll have a little bit of cut out of the track for him on Saturday which he likes and we’ll make a judgment on what he does after that.
“Spring Delight is training well. It’s a black-print race so we’re hoping for a good result. We’re hoping she can run well.”
Baker and Forsman’s other runners at Matamata are Dollarbee, Ironic, Long Game, Hot Pinx and Dance ‘N’ Sing.
“Hot Pinx will be a big chance with a bit of cut in the track,” Baker said.