THE 2015 Australian Derby field may only feature 10 runners, but they are all high quality and it's setting up as a race in four at this stage.
The 2400-metre staying race is run at Randwick this Saturday – the first weekend of The Championships – and is worth AUD$2 million.
Many punters believe the Australian Derby will be a four-horse race involving two New Zealand runners along with current favourite Preferment and Tulloch Stakes-winner Hauraki.
We'll preview all 10 runners for the Group 1 which kicks off with 2014 Victorian Derby winner Preferment, which has been building nicely towards this event.
2015 Australian Derby runner-by-runner guide
1. Preferment (10) – $3.50
Jockey: Damien Oliver
Trainer: Chris Waller
The son of Zabeel hasn't won since taking out the Group 1 Victorian Derby in November last year but it has been preparing all campaign for this and the increase in distance looks ideal.
After finishing second in the Rosehill Guineas behind Volkstok'n'barrell last time out, it immediately got installed as the favourite for the Derby and the likely wet track shouldn't pose any problems as it placed in its only start on rain-affected ground.
It has drawn wide in barrier 10 but draws don't feature heavily over this distance and Damien Oliver will guide the three-year-old around the Randwick track.
Predicted position: 1st at $3.50 with Sportsbet.com.au
2. Volkstok'n'barrell (5) – $4.60
Jockey: Craig Williams
Trainer: Donna Logan
This smart three-year-old came from New Zealand with an impressive form line and it stamped its authority by winning the Rosehill Guineas in fine style.
The Donna Logan-trained gelding left New Zealand having finished second behind Mongolian Khan in the New Zealand Derby which was run over 2400 metres. The distance isn't ideal and it gets a touch flat footed near the end of its run, but it has been working very well throughout the week so confidence is high.
There doesn't look to be a lot of tactical pace in the race and this is where Volkstok'n'barrell can take advantage. Expect the son of Tavistock to sit near the pace and try to take over on the home turn and be tough to run down.
Predicted position: 2nd at $1.50 to place.
3. Mongolian Khan (1) – $8
Jockey: Opie Bosson
Trainer: Murray Baker
Trainer Murray Baker expects a much better effort from his three-year-old here after running a disappointing fifth in the Rosehill Guineas.
The Holy Roman Emperor colt found the 2000-metre distance too rich for its liking but its form prior included a win in the New Zealand Derby where it was too strong for Volkstok'n'barrell and the rise back up in distance will be ideal.
It will likely need to lead on a slow pace to have any chance but there are only 10 runners in the field so a slow pace could be on the cards.
Predicted position: 4th
4. Hampton Court (6) – $26
Jockey: Joshua Parr
Trainer: Gai Waterhouse
The Gai Waterhouse-trained colt hasn't looked the same since winning the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Randwick last campaign.
The three-year-old by Redoute's Choice' best run since was a sixth in the Rosehill Guineas but that came in a field of only seven runners.
Many are calling for the colt to be gelded, in the hopes that its racing career would again flourish, but for the meantime it looks as though it won't be winning anytime soon,
The $26 appears to be a good price on face value but you would want at least $41 to have a nibble in this race.
Predicted position: 8th
5. Hauraki (9) – $3.70 at Crownbet.com.au
Jockey: James McDonald
Trainer: John O'Shea
The Godolphin-owned son of Reset burst onto the scene with a last start win in the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill.
The John O'Shea-trained colt looked good early on in its career with two consecutive wins at Kembla Grange and then Randwick. It then resumed its new campaign with a sixth at Sandown but then the three-year-old was disappointing when running last of 12 runners in the CS Hayes Stakes at Flemington.
It then ran second in the Phar Lap before producing a massive performance to win last start and the extra distance looks ideal.
Darley and James McDonald are on fire and it would take a bold prediction to say they couldn't win this race. Look for it to settle near the rear of the field before producing a run down the outside of runners.
Predicted position: 3rd – $1.40 to place at CrownBet.com.au
6. Quick Strike (3) – $15
Jockey: Tye Angland
Trainer: Chris Waller
Quick Strike is an interesting runner for Chris Waller and it has been well respected in the market at $15.
The High Chaparral gelding has won two from nine with five placings and that equates to a 78 per cent place rate, which is a good statistic for this race from a betting perspective.
The three-year-old was last seen running on for fourth in the Tulloch Stakes behind Hauraki but the run was very good. It settled well back in 13th place but ran home stylishly and the extra distance will suit nicely for this.
You can never count out a Chris Waller-trained runner and Quick Strike could be that smokey which runs a surprising race at odds.
Predicted position: 5th
7. Omeros (2) – $11
Jockey: Joao Moreira
Trainer: John Sargent
The John Sargent-trained runner looked home in the Group 2 Tulloch Stakes before James McDonald and Hauraki chimed in with 100 metres to go.
That run was only its third career start and having your fourth start in the Australian Derby is no easy task, but Sargent believes he has the horse to pull it off.
Prior to that placing the son of High Chaparral won at Wyong by 3.8 lengths and it looks to have plenty of natural front-running ability.
This might be one step too far for the lightly-tried gelding but Sargent knows how to prepare young stayers and the market suggests it has a runners chance.
Predicted position: 6th
8. Ruling Dynasty (4) – $11
Jockey: Tommy Berry
Trainer: Bart and James Cummings
Finished off for fifth nicely in the Tulloch Stakes which is one of the main form lines for the Australia Derby this year.
The son of rising stallion Medaglia D'oro won its second career win by five lengths over up-and-coming horses General Zabeel and Night In Venice so the form surrounding it is good.
Tommy Berry is a recent Group 1 Golden Slipper winner and he knows what it takes to win the big ones. His forte is more sprint racing but that winning experience will be valuable.
With both Omeros and Ruling Dynasty at $11, we'd prefer Omeros ($11 with Sportsbet) at this stage.
Predicted position: 7th
9. Bikila (8) – $201
Jockey: Chad Schofield
Trainer: Pat Carey
Not much going for this runner from the Pat Carey stables besides the fact that Carey knows how to train stayers well.
It won two starts back at William Hill Park but the form out of that race hasn't been tested at this company and it managed only seventh in the Alister Clark at Moonee Valley behind the second-tier stayers in Victoria.
The odds represent its chances which seem slim at best.
Predicted position: 9th
10. Brogue (7) – $101
Jockey: Christian Reith
Trainer: Steve Englebrecht
Winner at Hawkesbury two starts back before running 14th in the Tulloch Stakes where it settled on the pace but dropped away in the straight.
Only form has come in maiden company and the three-year-old colt by Zabeel would need to find plenty of improvement to feature in the finish.
Predicted position: 10th