While most of the leading contenders have taken a traditional route to the 2016 Victoria Derby, two hopefuls from the John Sargent stable have been on a less orthodox path.
Derby favourite and already a Group One winner, the Tony Pike-trained Sacred Elixir, won Saturday’s Group Two Moonee Valley Vase (2040m) to cement his place at the head of the field.
On the same day the Sargent-trained Shine Tak Star recorded his first win in a class one race at Kembla Grange over 2400 metres.
Twenty four hours earlier, Sargent took Peter John to Canberra where he won a similar race over 2000 metres to claim his second race win.
Although Sargent admits those races may not seem like ideal Derby lead-ups. for him it is not so much about the class as the stamina.
“We just have to wait and see if Shine Tak Star makes the field because he is well down the order. But if he gets in at acceptance time on Wednesday he will be on the float that night,” Sargent said.
“He has come through the race well. He got a bit lost when he was in front but he’s learning all the time and it’s all about getting these horses up over a distance.
“Even though they are early three-year-olds they are bred to be stayers. Shine Tak Star is by High Chaparral and Peter John is by Mastercraftsman who also produces stayers.
“Michael Walker will ride Peter John but we don’t have a rider yet for Shine Tak Star.
“We’ll look after that when we find out if he makes the field.”
Sargent has used provincial races as stepping stones to bigger things in the past both in Australia and his native New Zealand.
“Thunder Lady won a Newcastle maiden before she won the Wakeful and ran second in the (2014) Oaks,” he said.
“These horses are only three once and you don’t get many chances.”