Rival trainers have marvelled at the effort of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace to produce Hitotsu as the winner of the Victoria Derby.
Hitotsu was having only his third start for the preparation, and third for Maher and Eustace, in Saturday’s Group 1 2500m feature at Flemington.
After his two-year-old season with Wendy Kelly, Mahar and Eustace took over for his current campaign with the colt breaking through for his maiden win at Donald in September.
Maher and Eustace then sent Hitotsu straight to Group 1 company in which he finished fifth to Anamoe in the Caulfield Guineas (1600m) before switching their attention to the Derby.
“It took a lot of guts to go straight from 1600 metres to 2500,” trainer Grahame Begg said.
“I don’t know whether I would have.”
Sent out the $4 favourite under last week’s Cox Plate winning jockey John Allen, Hitotsu raced to a 1-¾ length win from Alegron ($6) with Teewaters ($31) a further two lengths away third.
Maher said his bloodstock manager Will Bourne was the one who sourced Hitotsu.
“We went down to have a look at him,” Maher said.
“He was fairly immature and that is probably why his program has developed the way it has.
“He’s very cleanwinded and with his run in the Guineas, we were happy to go to the Guineas off a maiden, and he was probably the strongest on the line in the Guineas.
“We didn’t want to over-race him because he is immature, but we were happy with his fitness and here we are.”
Maher had confidence that when Allen was able to find daylight on Hitotsu the colt would be able to blow away his rivals.
“Johnny Allen, he does a lot for us at the stable and there’s no better man to have around,” Maher said.
“He’s making a habit of winning these big ones. He’s got so much confidence.
“To get a victory like this in the VRC Derby on what is arguably the biggest day of racing, it’s fantastic.”
It was the first Derby for Maher and Allen and the second Derby win for Allen who scored on Extra Brut in 2018.
“We got into a nice position coming out of the straight, but the tempo just came back out of the race,” Allen said.
“There was a three-wide line which I was trying to get to because all the fancied ones seemed to be out there, but they came around me and kept me in, so I just had to ride for good luck around the corner.
“He was travelling that well, I just needed a gap, and once he got out the rest is history.
“He is a pretty talented horse. I have no doubt he is good enough to win a Group 1 over a mile”