Interlinked primed for NZ Derby assault

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Seven years after settling for second in their last raid on New Zealand's premier classic, expat trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young are resigned to running into one better again when Interlinked contests the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.

Busuttin and Young tackled the 2017 edition of the Derby with Rising Red, who ran a gallant second behind Gingernuts. That hugely popular chestnut later proved himself to be among the better Derby winners in recent years, adding the Group 1 Guineas (2000m) in Sydney and Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) at Hastings to his impressive record.

A return to Ellerslie for last month's Group 2 (2100m) left Busuttin with an all-too-familiar feeling. Interlinked finished strongly into third in a highly satisfactory Derby trial, but he was more than five lengths adrift of the winner Orchestral.

Interlinked heads into Saturday's rematch as an $8 second favourite with horse racing betting sites in a Derby market that is completely dominated by Orchestral at $1.40.

“We thought his Guineas run was very good,” Busuttin said. “It was his first spin right-handed and first time around Ellerslie, and he handled everything really well.

“But unfortunately for us, the reality is that the filly is in a different pay grade. She looks like she's a the rest of the field. There's every chance that we'll look back in a couple of years and say she's one of the better fillies to have come out of New Zealand in recent times. I'm sure she'll go across to Australia later on and prove herself there too.

“On what we saw in that lead-up race a couple of weeks ago, realistically she's going to need to strike a lot of bad luck if she's going to be beaten.”

But despite the daunting task that awaits Interlinked in Saturday's $1 million showpiece, Busuttin believes his promising stayer has had a flawless preparation.

By out of a daughter of the multiple Group One winner , Interlinked has had five starts for two wins, two placings and a fourth. He won his first two starts at Kilmore and Caulfield in November and December, then finished fourth at Flemington behind the subsequent Listed Tasmanian Derby (2200m) and Launceston Guineas (2100m) winner .

Interlinked later warmed up for his trans-Tasman venture with a solid second at The Valley on January 27.

“He's had a perfect preparation,” Busuttin said. “He's been staying at 's beautiful property at Karaka and he's absolutely thriving there.

“I think we've got as good a chance as anybody of running second on Saturday. He's drawn beautifully in gate six and won't have to do much work. Sam Weatherley knows him pretty well now and should be able to give him a lovely run.

“He's going to stay the 2400m on his ear. He doesn't have a lot of brilliance or a turn of foot, but he'll stay all day. He's a fit and happy horse and we're expecting him to run well.

“You never want to wish bad luck to anyone in a race, but who knows – if something did happen to go wrong for the favourite, we might be the best placed to take of it.”

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