Australian Derby 2018 Ante Post Betting Preview
Author: Martin Green
February 26 - Victoria Derby champion Ace High is the standout three-year-old among a massive 155 nominations for the Australian Derby at Randwick on April 7. The number of entries has risen 22 on last year, when Jon Snow romped to victory for New Zealand's Murray Baker.
The $2 million contest is the top ranked event for three-year-olds in Australia and New Zealand and it always attracts an extremely strong field of emerging stayers. The classic derby takes place over 2400m, and it is one of four Group 1 races on Doncaster Mile Day at Randwick. It is a set weights race, so colts and geldings must carry 56.5kg and fillies must carry 54.5kg. First acceptances for the Australian Derby will be taken on March 13 with the final field being released on April 3. It is still early days, but here are the leading early contenders to win it:
David Payne's Ace High put in a dominant performance to win the $500,000 Moet And Chandon Spring Champion Stakes over 2000m at this track. He then went on to cement his status as a budding superstar by winning the Group 1 $1.5m AAMI Victoria Derby over 2500m at Flemington. That suggests he would relish the course and the trip if he goes for the Derby. A lot depends on champion mare and all-round luminary Winx, who may well be entered into the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. If she is put forward for that race, Payne will keep Ace High away from her and go for the Derby instead. But if Winx's team decides to skip the Queen Elizabeth, Payne will shun the Derby and go for that one. If Ace High does line up for the Australian Derby, he will be the one to beat. He travelled beautifully in the Victoria Derby delivered one of the most impressive Group 1 victories seen in a long time. He has been back in action once since then, finishing fifth to Trapeze Artist in the Group 2 $200,000 Sydney Markets Limited Expressway Stakes over 1200m, but is likely to improve over the next couple of months as he steps up in trip and takes on the Hobartville Stakes, the Randwick Guineas and the Rosehill Guineas.
Tony McEvoy's charge was last seen finishing fourth behind Winx at the Grade 1 Cox Plate and the trainer was full of praise for his efforts. Royal Symphony only started racing in May 2017 and won his first two contests, before finishing fourth in two different Group 1 races. McEvoy claims he is a star of the future and it will be interesting to see how he gets on when he returns to action this year.
Darren Weir's Cliff's Edge returned to action in style when he won the Manfred Stakes over 1200m at Caulfield earlier this month. Weir said he has been displaying great physical progression since the spring and he certainly delivered in the Manfred Stakes to keep up his assault on the autumn classics. He has been made the favourite to win the Australian Guineas on March 3 and it will be important to see how he gets on there before placing a bet on the Australian Derby.
Aloisia beat Cliff's Edge to claim the Drummond Golf Vase at Moonee Valley over 2040m back in October, and he also produced a great performance to win last year's Grade 1 Thousand Guineas at Caulfield. She has looked lethargic on her return to action this season, and finished fifth out of 11 at the TAB Vanity at Flemington this month, but should relish the step up in trip as the campaign progresses. She is third favourite behind Cliff's Edge in the Australian Guineas, and that could give an indication as to who might have a better chance in the Australian Derby.
Age of Fire
This son of Fastnet Rock has been in the places every time he has raced, with two wins, a runner-up spot and two third-placed finishes in five starts. He finished second in the Group 1 2000 Guineas and then beat Every Loyal, Belle Du Nord and stablemate Embellish to claim the Shaws Wires Ropes. After that, Age of Fire delivered his best performance to date, winning the Group 1 Grant Plumbing Levin Classic over 1600m. That is ominous form to take into the Australian Derby and he looks good for another place in the big race.
Right now you can choose between any one of 155 stayers in the early nominations, but Sully and Civil Disobedience have seen fluctuations in the Australian Derby odds and they are both worth checking out.
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