NZ Derby hero still Sharp ‘N’ Smart

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Triple Group One winner Sharp ‘N’ Smart is ready to put his best foot forward when he contests Saturday’s $2 million Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick for trainers Graeme and Debbie Rogerson.

The son of Redwood has continued to thrive since his Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) victory earlier in the month but will need to be at the top of his game after drawing barrier 17 in the three-year-old staying feature.

Sharp ‘N’ Smart will again clash with a host of his fellow Kiwis, with Andalus, Full Of Sincerity and Mark Twain, who filled the second through fourth placings in the New Zealand Derby, also making the trek to Randwick.

“New Zealand has certainly got a good lot of young horses,” Graeme Rogerson said from Sydney.

“It was so hard to travel (during the COVID pandemic) and now it’s opening up and it’s quite easy. You can come over and run and go home.

“It was seven hours from the stables in Hamilton to walking in the box in Sydney. I think you will find a lot more good horses from New Zealand will come here for the prizemoney.”

Sharp ‘N’ Smart has won six of his 11 starts and has only once finished out of the first two, when he was a luckless fourth in the Group 1 JJ Atkins (1600m) as a juvenile.

Despite having banked the best part of $3 million in prize money, Rogerson believes Sharp ‘N’ Smart is still on an upward curve.

“Everything has gone right and I think he is getting better all the time. He is still learning to be a race horse,” Rogerson said.

“He’s got a hell of a lot of ability. He runs times I’ve never had horses run.

“He is a very strong horse physically. But mentally, when he gets past the other horses, he stops. He doesn’t win by much. In the New Zealand Derby he went to pull up, but he still won. He just switches off.

“He is a great chaser. When he is chasing the other horses he is some horse.”

Sharp ‘N’ Smart won the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) in Sydney in the spring, enduring a torrid wide run, and from barrier 17 he may have to repeat the dose.

“He can sit three, four-wide and he doesn’t pull. You can ride him anywhere,” Rogerson said.

“Ryan Elliot rode him on Saturday morning before he left and reckons he has improved immensely since the New Zealand Derby and I couldn’t believe his trackwork here on Tuesday morning.”

One of racing’s great characters, 75-year-old Rogerson is hoping to win the Australian Derby 26 years after he trained Ebony Grosve to land the prize.

“He was a very good horse Ebony Grosve, but he had a mind of his own,” Rogerson said. “I’ve trained some good ones. Efficient was a great staying horse. This horse has got the potential to be up with the very best.”

The wily horseman has 55 Group One wins to his name, 12 in partnership with wife Debbie, and he hasn’t ruled out backing-up Sharp ‘N’ Smart in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on day two of The Championships.

“The world is his oyster. We will see how he goes in the Derby. He has got a nomination in the Queen Elizabeth,” Rogerson said.

“I personally would love to try him against Anamoe and Dubai Honour to see how good he is. But we will play it by ear and just see after the Derby.

“The horse comes first. I am going to fly him home the following Sunday and then he can have six to eight weeks out before we plan a spring program for him.”

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