Guy Walter steers his own path to Derby
Guy Walter is taking an unorthodox path to the AJC Australian Derby with Orca who runs in a restricted race at Randwick on Saturday.
While many other Derby aspirants will be in the Randwick Guineas (1600m) a week later before going on to the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) on March 28, Walter believes that is less than ideal.
The Warwick Farm trainer said he believed the demise of the Canterbury Guineas over 1900 metres in favour of the Randwick feature meant the staying three-year-olds did not get the necessary preparation for the 2400m Classic on April 11.
"Since they abandoned the Canterbury Guineas it is a very poor progression of distances," Walter said.
"Orca will run over 1600 metres, then go to an 1800-metre race in preparation for the Rosehill Guineas and the Derby."
Although he is still a maiden, Orca showed his promise in the Melbourne spring with his third to Whobegotyou in the Group Two AAMI Vase (2040m) which followed a close second to Sarem over 1600m at Caulfield.
At his first start since his 10th in the Victoria Derby, Orca finished an unlucky seventh over 1200 metres to Centennial Park at Rosehill on February 7.
He put in an encouraging effort on a wet track two weeks later when fourth to O’Lonhro over 1500 metres, less than a length from the winner.
Orca’s stablemate Rocha will follow the stakes races towards the AJC Australian Oaks with the fillies Classic opened up due to the career-threatening injury to Samantha Miss.
Rocha, who like Orca is raced by former New Zealand Test cricketer Terry Jarvis, will run in Saturday’s Surround Stakes (1400m) which attracted 25 entries.
The slow track at Randwick for the Light Fingers Stakes on February 14 was not to Rocha’s liking and Walter said he expected better on a firmer surface.
Rocha won the Wakeful Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on November 1 and was a fair fifth to Samantha Miss in the Oaks after having to work hard from a wide barrier.
Quality mare Bernicia was another who struck form in Melbourne, winning the Listed Summoned Stakes (1500m), and she will race in Saturday’s Wiggle Quality (1400m).
At her first start since her Melbourne win, Bernicia ran fourth in the Breeders Classic (1200m) won by Hot Danish who is also entered for the Wiggle.
Walter, who trained Tie The Knot to win a record four Chipping Norton Stakes, won’t have a runner in the feature on Saturday but is still hoping for a Group One victory on the day.
He will take Salinger Stakes runner-up Fighting Fund back to the Flemington straight course in the hopes of causing an upset in the Group One Newmarket Handicap (1200m).
"He has a great first-up record and I think it looks like an ideal race for him," he said.
Fighting Fund has won three from six first-up and is a $41 chance ahead of Wednesday’s declaration of the final field and barrier draw.
By Caryl Williamson