Adelaide’s leading trainer Phillip Stokes is no stranger to Flemington but finds himself in new territory with his first Victoria Derby runner.
Last year Stokes had four wins during Cup week including the Group One Emirates Stakes with Hucklebuck who also won a Group Three race on the first day.
“That was unbelievable,” Stokes said.
“If we can get a winner this year I’ll be rapt. We’ll see how we go.”
Stokes will saddle up Colonel Custer in Saturday’s $1.5 million Victoria Derby with the colt coming off an unlucky seventh in the Geelong Classic.
Colonel Custer began awkwardly and settled back in the field before being checked at crucial stages in the straight.
“He did well to finish where he did,” Stokes said.
Craig Williams, who won the Victoria Derby on Kibbutz in 2007, sticks with Colonel Custer on Saturday.
Like all the horses heading into the Derby, Colonel Custer is stepping to 2500m for the first time which is a question mark but Stokes believes the son of Savabeel will run the trip.
And the trainer took confidence out of the performance at Geelong.
“When he missed the kick and went back on him, he relaxed nicely which I was happy to see because he can be a bit revvy in his trackwork,” Stokes said.
“It’s a Derby and going to 2500 metres for the first time, it will see a few of them out.
“I think he can run it out, but we’ll see.
“It’s exciting to have a runner in the Derby.”
Stokes will have Eclair Choice, who dead-heated for first in the Caulfield Sprint last start, in Saturday’s Group Two 1200m sprint while his other intended carnival runners are Comprende in a Listed race for fillies on Melbourne Cup day and Okahu Bay and One For One on Saturday week.
The last South Australian-trained Victoria Derby winner was Rebel Raider who caused a boilover in 2008.
The Mick Price-trained Tarzino is the clear-cut $2.20 favourite ahead of acceptances on Wednesday while Colonel Custer is at $21.