The New Zealand Derby has been a reliable form indicator during the autumn carnival with Gingernuts and Jon Snow snaring Group One races in Sydney, and now an also-ran at Ellerslie has a chance to impress.
Unlike the Rosehill Guineas and Australian Derby winners, Lincoln Blue arrived at Chris Waller’s base five weeks ago without fanfare, and understandably so after a forgettable last start when he trailed Gingernuts home in the NZ Derby by 17 lengths last month.
Lincoln Blue bucked after leaving the barrier and although Masa Tanaka regained control, the three-year-old colt finished 16th of 18, hardly the ideal performance before he departed Lisa Latta’s stable.
Waller was unfazed, however, after owner John Street sent the Group Three Wellington Stakes winner across the Tasman for an Australian campaign which opens with Saturday’s Group Three Hawkesbury Guineas (1400m).
Lincoln Blue was not asked to do too much in a barrier trial at Randwick on April 18 with Hugh Bowman aboard.
“He’s settled in really well. The 1400 may be a little bit short but he’s firmly headed towards Queensland,” Waller said.
“We’ll gradually step his distances up. For now I’m concentrating on keeping the speed in him and not overworking him in terms of galloping.”
Ideally Lincoln Blue will make amends for the NZ Derby in the Queensland equivalent for three-year-olds over 2400m at Eagle Farm on June 10.
With Bowman riding the Peter and Paul Snowden-trained Calanda, Corey Brown takes the mount on Lincoln Blue who will head to Queensland for the Group Three Rough Habit Plate (2000m) and Grand Prix Stakes (2200m) on May 13 and 27 respectively ahead of the Group One Derby.
Waller trained last year’s Hawkesbury Gold Cup winner Amovatio and was restrained about the potential of one his three runners repeating the feat.
Group One winner Vanbrugh, who claimed the 2015 Spring Champion Stakes, has only had one start this year at Newcastle last month because of the wet weather in NSW.
“You haven’t seen him racing through the autumn carnival because there weren’t enough good tracks about,” Waller said.
Vanbrugh’s preparation will be aimed at the Group One Doomben Cup (2000m) on May 20.
Beyond Thankful has his first start since January to condition the seven-year-old for a winter campaign in Sydney while Marenostro has an unfavourable draw (16) and prefers wet tracks.