Trainer Murray Baker and jockey James McDonald admit they might have been a bit hasty with their initial perception of Victoria Derby favourite It’s A Dundeel.
McDonald said he was hardly impressed when he first looked over the colt.
“Earlier on as a young horse he didn’t really show a lot,” McDonald said.
But a mighty run from the back of the pack in his debut race at Ellerslie in New Zealand in April quickly changed his mind.
“He really surprised me in his first-up start. He came from last and it was a huge effort that day,” McDonald said.
“Murray always thought he was going to be a serious horse after that.
“He’s just improved and improved up in Sydney and he’s got down here and he’s going really well.”
Baker searched for a race to start his preparation this year and found an Australian Turf Club 1350m event run at Wyong on the NSW Central Coast on August 22.
“It was the only suitable three-year-old race he could run in at that time,” Baker said.
“He’d had a 1000-metre trial and was beaten by (Cox Plate winner) Ocean Park, so the form’s worked out pretty good.
“We had to start him somewhere in his own age group and that was the only race available.
“He was starting to go well in training, albeit relaxed and hitting the line at the finish, so we did give him a bit of a show.”
It’s A Dundeel went on to win his next three starts – a restricted race on the tight Canterbury circuit followed by the Group Three Gloaming and the Group One Spring Champion Stakes on the spacious Randwick track.
His unbeaten run came to an end when he finished second to Super Cool in the Group Two Moonee Valley Vase (2040m) a week ago.
Both McDonald and Baker are confident It’s A Dundeel can regain his winning form on the big Flemington layout in Saturday’s $1.5 million Victoria Derby (2500m)
“As soon as he got to the bigger tracks he started to hit his straps and his best two wins have come on the biggest track,” McDonald said.
“He’s going to take the length of the straight to wind up and he’s done that – I don’t think the distance will be a problem for him and hopefully we’ll get a nice run.”
Baker remains impressed with his horse, despite his last-start loss.
“He got beaten by a better horse on the day but he did run the last 600 metres in 34.9 seconds and he was five wide,” he said.
“I’m confident that at Flemington he’ll be better suited because he’s a horse with a big sprint and he takes a while to get going and then he gets going late.”