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The fire that is the Melbourne Cup Carnival will ignite on Saturday with Victoria Derby Day, rated by many as the best race day of the year in Australia and one of the best in the world with nine blacktype races, highlighted by the $1.5 Million Aami Victoria Derby (2500m) with top class colt Manawanui the punters elect to keep up his winning form after an arrogant win in the Aami Vase last Satruday. However, there will be 17 horses (two emergencies) looking to change the Sydney gallopers winning ways. Here is my runner by runner review of the 2011 Aami Victoria Derby.

Form Guide

1. Manawanui
Running second to Sepoy as the best three year old colt in Australia. Three successive wins to kick off his Spring at group level, including a top effort in the Golden Rose, before coming to Melbourne for the Guineas and tried his guts out to go down narrowly to Helmet. He then went to Moonee Valley on Saturday and although he didn’t have much opposition, he still looked to do it easily. If he is ridden with cover midfield, he should just about win. Top pick.

2. Isopach
Did win the UCI Stakes two back, but his other nine career runs haven’t been flash. One of the outsiders and rightfully so.

3. Collar
Gee I am surprised at the odds being offered for this bloke. He was ultra impressive three back, then looked a bit plain as a raging odds on pop before doing his best last Saturday behind Manawanui. He didn’t look so comfortable at Moonee Valley so the Flemington track will help his causes. Has the staying pedigree of a very good horse and I would not rule him out.

4. Sabrage
Probably a bit lucky to win the Norman Robinson because McDonald did go for home too early on Sangster and Sabrage had the cold sit to get up and win on the line. He is a nice type but I question that last start effort and the barrier makes it very hard for him. Oliver will have to weave that magic wand of his to get it home.

5. Sangster
Kiwi raider who has been in Oz since August. His form has been very good apart from his lacklustre run in the Gloaming. As said above, McDonald went for home far too early in the Norman Robinson yet he fought on very well and was only grabbed late. Senior rider in Bowman jumps on and from the barrier he should get across into a nice spot. If the rain arrives, he comes right into contention.

6. Perfect Punch
Nice colt from South Australia who made is Victorian debut in the Geelong Classic last week and although he finished third, it was a tad ordinary. I personally think that apart from the winner, Induna, that race was very poor in terms of depth. The combination of Leon McDonald and Clare Lindop did win the Derby in 2008 with Rebel Raider, but I doubt they can repeat that effort here.

7. Induna
Main danger to the favourite. Toyed with them in a maiden at Gosford and then stepped up to the Geelong Classic and did much the same, drawing away for a very impressive victory. The Snowden team don’t have many decent stayers but they appear to have a beauty here. Can he beat Manawanui? I don’t think so, but he does look a cups horse for the future. He should finish in the first three.

8. Costly Committment
Takes an eternity to wind up. That has been demonstrated in all six career runs to date. Copped a couple of bumps last start in the Norman Robinson before eventually getting going again late for a decent fourth. 2500m suits, as does Flemington, but does he have the class and talent to take this out? I think not, but a first four hope with luck in running.

9. Scelto
Sat back and worked to the line strongly in the Aami Vase behind Manawanui. I am surprised he is one of the rank outsider given his last few runs have been ok. Surprised if he won, wouldn’t be surprised if he finished in the first half of the field. I think he’ll be better in the Autumn once he strengthens up.

10. Niagara
The knockout horse. Walked in at Canterbury two starts back before stepping up to the Norman Robinson as one of the best backed runners we have seen for a while. If you did back him there, you would have gone to the nearest bar for a very stiff drink because he was a tragedy beaten. Stepping up to 2500m looks right up his alley, and if he can overcome barrier 18, he is a threat to the toppie.

11. Cornell
Dragged the field up to the tearaway leader in the Geelong Classic and fought on well for second but he is stepping a few classes here and his form prior was ordinary at best. Not for me.

12. Eagle Command
Was touted as the Derby horse to back after a very good second in the UCI Stakes hence he was a well backed favourite in the Geelong Classic, but he was gone on the home corner and didn’t fire a shot. He does appear to have talent, but maybe next preparation for him. I can’t have him after his last start effort.

13. Zabeelionaire
He is finally here. I have liked him since day one and have stated that he is my Derby horse, but I would have liked to see him do more last start behind Sabrage. Not to say he can’t win, but he’d need to find a couple of lengths to challenge the big guns. A definite trifecta hope if he gets cover from the awkward draw.

14. I Feel Good
I think the connections are thinking he has talent because he ran second in a two year old race at Flemington last season. He doesn’t and he’ll battle hard here.

15. Rapidus
Never under estimate J B Cummings in Group One staying races, but surely he could not figure here, even though his last start effort was terrific.

16. Mr Chez
Kiwi raider who is racing like the 2500m at Flemington will suit. Fought on well behind Induna and in form rider Michael Rodd jumps on board. If you have a spare spot in your exotics, throw him in because he is bred to get the distance and he can handle wet ground.

17. Mustang
Forget he went around at Geelong after he missed the start and couldn’t get into the race. However, he’ll need to improve many lengths to feature and I doubt he has that up his sleeve.

18. Monsili
He’s 200/1. Enough said. Battling win at Hamilton last start. No way.

The Sydney colt Manawanui on top for me. He has miles and miles on these in terms of class. If he gets the 2500m, he’ll bolt in. Just hoping Schofield settles him off the speed with cover and saves him up for the final 800m where he can use the devastating turn of foot. Induna was very good at Geelong, especially his last 200m where he put away his rivals in dominant fashion. He is the danger. Niagara just has to overcome the draw to be in the mix. He is on the fresh side and looks the ideal Derby type and Zabeelionaire can threaten this trio if he switches on and gets clear galloping space.

Written by Adam Page

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