Gehrig wins but out of Derby

Gehrig (Vinnie Colgan) breaking through for his first win at Te Aroha yesterday.

Roger James doesn’t regret withdrawing Gehrig from the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby nominations despite the three-year-old’s maiden victory over ground at Te Aroha yesterday.

Gehrig, a son of Cape Blanco and James’ good racemare La Sizeranne, was having just his third start when he was stepped up from 1600m in the Baker & Forsman Racing Stables 2200 and he proved too strong for his rivals when winning by a length and a quarter from Winklebelle.

But James believes the promising stayer doesn’t have the necessary ringcraft to handle the build-up needed to tackle the 2400m Derby.

‘’I pulled him out of the Derby during the week,’’ said James, who trains in partnership with Robert Wellwood. ‘’While he might have the ability, I don’t think he’s got the brain to get there and have a Derby preparation.

‘’He has got a future and it might be time to back off him for a while. I’m not getting carried away. There are still other Derbys later in the season, but it might be as a four or five-year-old that he matures.”

Gehrig had shown ability in two trials, with a second then a win at Avondale, before finishing sixth on debut at Te Rapa on December 22 when racing over 1400m. He made ground late on that occasion and again was doing his best work late when fourth over 1600m at Te Rapa second-up.

That second start took on more meaning when the winner Sponge Bob followed up with a win in the Waikato Guineas last Saturday.

Vinnie Colgan has been Gehrif’s regular rider and he had the horse in fourth or fifth placing for most of the journey before moving him up to challenge on the home turn. Gehrig got to the front at the 200m and he kept kicking under Colgan’s urgings to draw clear in the final stages.

‘’I haven’t ever seen Winnie work so hard in a midweek race,’’ said James. “He didn’t have an easy ride.”

Colgan acknowledged he certainly earned his riding fee on Gehrig.

“He’s a fairly awkward horse,’’ he said. ‘’He’s probably six months away.’’