AJC Derby – a special day at Randwick

by Chris Riordan

It is not my habit to sneak a midweek look at Webjet, eyeing  a throwaway fare to Sydney, but the AJC Derby meeting is on my Australian racing bucket list. Alas, finances determine that I’ll watch the main races, the T.J. Smith and The Derby from a bar at Doglands – dragging myself away from arguably the biggest certainty of the day – but for those lucky enough to be at Randwick, it promises to be a special day indeed.

Remarkably, on a feature packed programme, the 150th Colts’ Classic has been overshadowed by the appearance of Black Caviar, Moody’s mighty mare who has captured the imagination of sports fans beyond our normal catchment. This may be her only run in Sydney (T.J.Smith Stakes, R5, No7, 2.20pm) and, despite the bogey of clockwise racing, it should again be an exhibition gallop. Without her, this would still be a worthy WFA Group Race – I really think the batch of sprinters are high class – but she is one of-a-kind.

The (then) AJC bit the bullet over thirty years ago, moving the Derby to Autumn, and it has subsequently become unarguably the premiere race of its kind in Australia. Won in its earlier format by icons Phar Lap and Tulloch, more recent victors have included the mighty Dulcify, Kingston Town,  Beau Zam, Naturalism, Mahogany, Starcraft and, last year, Shoot Out. I clearly recall joining a throng in the bowels of the Southern Stand cheering at the small TAB TV in 1996 as Octagonal overcame Saintly, Filante and Nothin’ Like a Dane in a vintage year. It doesn’t appear to be a crack field tomorrow but there is still much about which to speculate.  Any analysis for a punter has to begin with a position on the (very) short priced Kiwi contender, Jimmy Choux. I potted him last start and was once again made to look silly as he accelerated up the rise and comprehensively dismissed a not dissimilar field to tomorrow’s. So why the reservations? I should, after all, be bullish for the unglamorous  combo threatening to usurp the traditional big-wigs. What about the hoop, J. Riddell, a former visitor to Melbourne for the Grand National (fell on the fav Chibuli at the last) and the ‘Bool? Here he is, regenerating his career on the NZ Derby winner with a ‘picket fence” beside his name. He knows the horse and, despite the tricky inside gate, won’t be out of his depth, but…he has previously said that this horse is a better miler and just “gets by” on ability. Many beforehand have done just this as a dawdling pace can be the norm. Surely opposing stables know that this is their only realistic option, so someone is going to have to set it up as a stayers’ test. If that’s the case, I’m E/W Masquerader, but happy to cheer home Jimmy Choux, who’d be a worthy addition to the honour board.

On a great day at Randwick, my best at the moment is Brilliant Light in the Doncaster Prelude.

Caulfield hosts a stock-standard meeting for Melbourne’s punters, where I’ll be looking to Bigelow (R4, No1) to reinforce the “blinkers first time” theory.

Nostalgists might want to switch to TVN at 7:40 tonight – thus avoiding the Flag unfurling on Ch7 – and watch the InterDominion final. This used to be a really big deal and this year’s edition, in NZ, promises a fascinating final after the barrier draw turned markets upside down. The extraordinary Black’s a Fake will be a sentimental and realistic hope for a fifth title from a great alley, but I’d avoid a 10 yr old who will be unders on the tote. I’ll be cheering for the Victorian Smoken’ Up (No10).

As usual, any comments or tips welcomed. Good luck!


  1. Thanks for the tip, Crio. I’ll definitely be watching the Inter-Dominion Final!

  2. Gigs, I’m way out of the loop with the crims on rims…and I assume it will be SKY not TVN, which is thoroughbred horses only (mixed bred commentators however!).

  3. Well, even if I spend just enough time searching for the right channel so that I miss the flag unfurling, that’ll be good enough!

  4. How about this, Crio? It’s on free-to-air! ONE-HD from 7pm.

  5. And it won!
    Gigs, scarily Caulfield R2 No8 tomorrow is “Diamond Jim”. Before you get too excited by the coincidence, the more likely omen is that it has been disappointing!

  6. Come to the footy with us tomorrow Gigs.

  7. I will be there Crio. Standing on level one, probably around the aisle 33 mark.

  8. Crio,

    I’m very keen on Herculian Prince in R4 at Randwick. Genuine Gr1 performer who excels 2nd up. Think he’ll be too good for them and I see IAS has him $13 into $11 this morning.

    Another IAS shortener I like is in R8, Hurtle Myrtle. Has form against better than these (More Joyous!) and is $26 to $19 this morning. D Oliver on board make this one a good each way bet late in the day.

    Not sure about Jimmy in the Derby. He’s clearly the best horse in the race but there might be a better stayer hidden away there somewhere. I’m prepared to forgive Retrieve his last start when he got stuck on the fence in a slowly run race. From the wide gate he’ll have to go forward and make it a true staying test.

    I see the Aintree Grand National is on tomorrow morning our time. A field of 44 !!

  9. Crio,

    One for the “well named” humour list. Ran fourth today at Newcastle. By the stallion Forepley, it’s named ARE YOU AWAKE. Pretty funny.

  10. Refer #8 – not every day you get handed a $21 winner (especially not from me!)

  11. Well done! Of course, i did not back it…like the other “roughie rhymer” we picked last year, Haddle McDaddle. Somehow I get it confused with Hurtle Myrtle!

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