Carrick camp smiling

While the weather reports have brought concern to other Derby trainers, the same can’t be said about the feelings of Cambridge’s Tony Pike (pictured) and Mark Donoughue.

The training partners will line up the very promising Carrick in the Group I $750,000 Telecom NZ Derby at Ellerslie  tomorrow in a bid to go one better than they did with Historian last year. Historian tried gamely on a heavy track and finished second behind Jimmy Choux in the feature.

The Ellerslie track was rated as dead on Wednesday, but the forecast is for heavy rain on Saturday, something which the Auckland Racing Club and trainers of many of the runners, including two of the top Cambridge hopes Silent Achiever and Zurella, hope doesn’t eventuate.

“But it won’t worry us,” said Pike. “We know he can handle it. And by the sound of it if that happens Zurella could be pulled out. As for Silent Achiever, that would put us on a more level playing field. She is a
class filly and on a good track we couldn’t beat her.”

Carrick got through a slow track to win at Tauranga when stepping up from an impressive debut maiden victory at Te Teko and he has had only two further starts. He was beaten a nose at Te Teko then finished on
gamely for third behind Silent Achiever and Shuka in the Group II Falls Restaurant & Mullins Tyres Avondale Guineas (2100m).

“He got a bit lost around Ellerslie the first time in the Avondale Guineas and was on the wrong leg on the corner,” said Pike. “He then got shunted three-wide by Shuka, but he fought on well. I was very happy with
the run.”

Historian had used the Avondale Guineas as part of his Derby leadup last year, finishing fourth to Jimmy Choux, and he then ran third in the Waikato Guineas. Pike held Historian in high regard, but admits he was stepping into the unknown with him when facing a heavy track in the Derby.

“It rained all day and we didn’t know if he’d handle it,” said Pike. “We knew he was fit and ready to run a big race. With Carrick, we haven’t got that worry and he’s bred to stay the distance. There’ s no worries about him getting the trip whereas we had no idea whether Historian would get it. I’d say I’m more confident going into the race with this fellow (Carrick) than I was with Historian.”

Carrick added to Pike’s confidence when he worked at Cambridge yesterday morning. “He worked super,” he said. “He’s ready for the race.”

Leith Innes has ridden Carrick in all but one of his public appearances — Matt Cameron was aboard in the Tauranga win — and he realised early on the horse was well above average.

Despite his formline, Carrick had been overshadowed in the Derby coverage leading up to the big event. Naturally most of it has centred on Roger James’ top filly Silent Achiever, who has done nothing wrong.

Silent Achiever is one of only three fillies taking on the males in the Derby and will be chasing her fifth win in total from seven starts and fourth on end. And though best on good ground she, like Carrick, has won on
a slow track. That happened in the Group II Radio Live Championship Stakes when she defeated Shuka at Ellerslie.

Zurella, another Cambridge filly, has also won four of her six starts and she impressed in her last-start victory in the Group II Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic. She will be ridden by Jason Waddell, while James McDonald will be on Silent Achiever.

Barney and Colorado Sun complete the Cambridge representation in the Derby. Barney, the mount of Craig Grylls, has won once from six starts but gives the impression he will go the distance, while Colorado Sun, to be ridden by Patrick Holmes, is also a winner but is rated a longshot.