It’s been almost 20 years since Gai Waterhouse won the Victoria Derby and bookmakers agree with the trainer that this will be her year again.
Waterhouse has found herself without a Melbourne Cup runner and is disappointed Derby favourite Hampton Court won’t be able to back up in the race three days later if he wins the Classic as expected.
On Tuesday, Waterhouse withdrew her only contender, former favourite The Offer, from the Cup unhappy with his condition.
The rules allowing connections to pay a late entry fee to put the Derby winner in the Cup were changed seven years ago and they now have to be nominated from the outset, something Waterhouse said would not have crossed anyone’s minds a few months ago.
She had more early clues with Nothin’ Leica Dane who won the 1995 Derby and beat all but Doriemus in the Cup.
“A few months ago Hampton Court had won a provincial maiden and you would never have thought he would be ready for the Derby,” Waterhouse said.
“He has come along in leaps and bounds. The further he goes the better and the 2500 metres won’t worry him.
“I don’t like to get too cocky because you can fall flat on your face in this game but I am quietly confident.”
Hampton Court, whose owners include James Packer and broadcaster Alan Jones, will be ridden by Kerrin McEvoy who will not be burdened with too many instructions.
“I don’t like to give too many instructions. That’s why you put the best jockeys on,” Waterhouse said.
“We will work it out on the day but he has led and has come from behind.”
Barrier 11 has not deterred Waterhouse or punters with Hampton Court the steady $2.80 favourite ahead of the Chris Waller-trained Preferment ($5) who has gate six.
Waller toyed with the idea of putting blinkers on Preferment who did not concentrate as much as he would have liked when a close second to Nozomi in the Geelong Classic.
But the trainer has opted for the less severe winkers to help the son of Zabeel who goes to the Derby as a maiden.
Last year’s Derby winning trainer Robbie Laing has ended up with two runners – Cuban Fighter and The Mighty Jrod – aiming to back up Polanski’s victory.
“They haven’t got the dominant form of Polanski but they can both stay,” Laing said.
“When the others are getting tired they’ll be running on.”
While Laing was thrilled to get two runners in the race, it came about in part because of fellow trainer Gerald Ryan’s misfortune.
Bachman, who finished third to Hampton Court two starts ago and was one of the fancied runners, suffered a leg injury after an accident on the water walker on Wednesday morning.
Ryan said the injury was not too serious and Bachman would recover.