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Victoria Derby 2016 hopeful Wine Bush has broken his maiden at his Melbourne debut with a hard-fought win in the UCI Stakes at Flemington.

Having just his sixth start in Sunday’s Listed race, the Chris Waller-trained Wine Bush ($19) ran in blinkers for the first time and appreciated the step up to 1800 metres.

He beat Rocketeer in a head-bobbing finish with New Zealander Highlad another two lengths third.

Waller won the Victoria Derby with Preferment two years ago and said the 2500m classic was the target for Wine Bush.

“It’s been a tough winter. We’ve had a lot of wet tracks in Sydney and it’s been hard to get a good guide on the horses,” Waller said.

“But what we’ve been able to maintain is race fitness and he’s been steadily learning his way and finding his way down to Melbourne at the right time of year,.”

Wine Bush is one of several of the stable’s three-year-olds under consideratiom for the Derby with the trainer planning to have three runners in Saturday’s Spring Champion Stakes in Sydney.

Wine Bush settled fifth on the fence under Hugh Bowman before the jockey angled him off the rail turning for home.

Dwayne Dunn took an inside run on Rocketeer and got a split to hit the front at the 200m.

Wine Bush gradually got to Rocketeer to win by a nose.

Bowman said the colt was progressive and had more to offer.

“If he’s going to be a genuine Derby contender he’s got to improve but I’ve got no doubt he will,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he was loath to compare him to Preferment, who won the Derby as a maiden, but did say the two were similar types at the same stage.

 
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