Chris Waller is known for his meticulous planning and his ability to get horses to peak for big races.
But the leading trainer admits Preferment is a puzzle he has not yet solved.
The colt goes to Saturday’s Victoria Derby as the second favourite following his eye-catching second to Nozomi in the Geelong Classic.
Waller is still trying to work out why he didn’t win and why he is going to the Derby as a maiden.
“He is still a big baby, ” Waller said.
“My concern is why he hits those flat spots in his races.
“Is he resenting something – I don’t really know, I’m not a horse whisperer.
“We just have to work away and not try to make drastic changes.
“We don’t want the horse up on the bridle over 2500 metres and not conserving energy. We want the complete package.
“Fortunately with horses you can make some changes and sometimes get away with it and sometimes you don’t.
“It’s not the be-all and end-all if we don’t get it right this week. We’ll try again another day.”
Although he has yet to win the Victoria Derby, Waller has won the Queensland Classic with Hawkspur who runs in the Mackinnon Stakes.
The trainer is a fan of three-year-old Classic racing, not least because it excludes northern hemisphere horses who have already taken out the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate this spring.
“We’ve got four or five Derbys and Oaks and they can’t be taken over by European horses because of the age difference,” he said.
“These are our races and you can have a maiden and still be competitive and owners love competing in them.”
Preferment’s owners include Linda and Graham Huddy, who won an Australian Derby with the John Wallace-trained Shoot Out who was later switched to Waller.
One person who will watch the Derby with more interest than most is Cambridge Stud proprietor Sir Patrick Hogan.
Preferment is by Hogan’s now-retired champion sire Zabeel whose progeny are noted for sometimes being slow to mature.
The Gai Waterhouse-trained Hampton Court, a last-start winner of the Group One Spring Champion Stakes, remains the steady Derby favourite at $2.50 ahead of Preferment at $5.50.
Waterhouse has no qualms about the ability of Hampton Court to see out the distance of the Derby and give her a second win almost 20 years after Nothin’ Leica Dane beat Octagonal.
Kerrin McEvoy will be trying to win his first Victoria Derby on Hampton Court while four-time winner Damien Oliver will use all his experience to get Preferment home.
Redding, in 1992, is the last horse to break his maiden in the Derby with Oliver his pilot.