Niagara, who broke his maiden status last start, has emerged as the best chance for trainer Gai Waterhouse to win her second Victoria Derby.
Waterhouse described the three-year-old as “a smoky” in Saturday’s Group Three Norman Robinson Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield but TAB Sportsbet punters have jumped on board and backed him from $10 to $3.90 favouritism.
“I think he’s got an outstanding chance on Saturday,” Waterhouse said.
“He’s a Derby horse, definitely.”
Waterhouse won the 1995 Victoria Derby with Norman Robinson Stakes winner Nothin’ Leica Dane and also won the 2002 Caulfield feature with Platinum Scissors who was scratched from the Derby because of an elevated temperature.
Niagara is one of five horses Waterhouse still has in the Derby and is clearly the best hope at $13 for the Classic.
“He reminds me amazingly of Platinum Scissors,” Waterhouse said.
“He is very similar. A big, bulky colt. A really nice horse.”
Platinum Scissors, however, was far better credentialled for the Norman Robinson Stakes having won the Group One Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick in his lead-up run.
Niagara has only raced four times and last start posted his first success in brilliant fashion, winning by six lengths in a Benchmark 65 race at Canterbury on September 28.
Waterhouse said he was so impressive that she decided to give him his chance in the Norman Robinson.
“He’s firing on all cylinders,” Waterhouse said.
Waterhouse’s other Derby prospects are The Great Snowman ($31), Laser Hawk ($51), Power Broker ($51) and Surrcosta ($101).
New Zealand three-year-old Sangster, who was a last-start third in the Spring Champion Stakes when beaten 1-3/4 lengths by Doctor Doom, is at $5.50 for the Norman Robinson.
Others in the market are the Leon Corstens-trained Zabeelionaire ($6) who is still a maiden, and Isopach ($7) and Costly Commitment ($8) who were first and third in the Listed UCI Stakes (1800m) at Flemington on October 2.
Trainer Mick Price was disappointed with Costly Commitment’s finishing effort at Flemington and expects more from him to warrant a start in the Derby and avoid being gelded.
“I thought with the run he had at Flemington in the 1800, he was entitled to hit the line a bit harder,” Price said.
He said he would have no excuses on Saturday.
“It’s 2000 (metres), he’s drawn barrier two, he’s had the racing, he’s done the work and really he’s entitled to win,” Price said.
Jockey Michael Rodd will ride one of the outsiders, Bashan ($61), for New Zealand trainer Richard Otto and believes the gelding has Derby potential despite finishing seventh to Isopach at Flemington.
“I have been on his back a couple of times and he is a really nice horse,” Rodd said.
“He lacks a bit of experience, is a little bit immature, and has a bit of a look around but they’ve put blinkers back on tomorrow.
“If he can improve his racing manners a little he is a really good each-way chance.”