Unseasonably fine autumn weather for the Australian Derby has not fazed Murray Baker as he eyes a fifth successful raid on the $2 million three-year-old Classic at Randwick.
While New Zealand contenders for the Group One staying test over 2400m tend to enjoy soft or heavy going, Baker’s quartet are exceptions to the rule.
Only four of the past 20 Australian Derbys have been run on a good track, with It’s A Dundeel in 2013 the only one of Baker’s winners to prevail on firm ground.
Nom Du Jeu (2008), and Mongolian Khan (2015) won on heavy and soft ground respectively.
Jon Snow won on a heavy track 12 months ago for Baker and training partner Andrew Forsman.
Baker is reluctant to compare this year’s crop to Jon Snow.
“He liked the wet, and a good track won’t worry these ones,” Baker said.
Baker was reluctant to separate his runners but acknowledged the Derby might fall too soon in Mongolian Marshal’s program.
A $21 chance with the TAB on Friday, Mongolian Marshal did not use the New Zealand Derby as a launching pad as Baker raced him in lower grades at home before he finished fourth in the Group Two Tulloch Stakes (2000m) last Saturday, his first run for a month.
While that run had merit he is disadvantaged by the outside gate .
New Zealand Derby winner Vin De Dance was Baker’s highest rated runner at $8.50 after he finished second in the Group One Rosehill Guineas (2000m) before being demoted to fourth on protest.
“He’s fit and well and he can run the trip,” Baker said.
Mission Hill ($12) boasts the best record on good tracks with two wins from three starts and Baker thinks highly of the gelding despite a string of luckless runs either side of the Tasman.
He felt Mission Hill could have won the Group Two Avondale Guineas (2100m) until he was blocked for a run and he deserved better than sixth in the New Zealand Derby.
Mission Hill was seventh in the Rosehill Guineas on March 24, 3-1/4 lengths from the winner D’Argento.
“He’s really thrived over here, he just needs some luck,” Baker said.
He believes Weather With You ($19) is also on an upward spiral before he meets Derby favourite Ace High for the first time since the David Payne-trained colt won the Group Once Victoria Derby (2500m) in November.
Weather With You, eighth in the Victoria Derby, also backs up from the Tulloch Stakes, in which he ran third behind Levendi and Astoria.