Count on Derby path after Tauranga win

Roger James and Matt Cameron had conflicting NZ Derby feelings on Full Count after they combined to win the Crockford Real Estate 1600 at Tauranga yesterday.

Full Count is one of two horses James has entered for the Gr. 1 TV3 NZ Derby at Ellerslie on March 1 – the other is Delago’s Secret, a runner at Te Rapa on Saturday – and he emerged as a contender for the 2400-metre feature when beating the Rating 65 field.

Settled back by Cameron, Full Count swept on the leaders in the run home and, though Manny came at him hard over the final stages, he went to the line a long neck in front, while there was a gap of a length and three-quarters to third-placed Call The Shots.

“He’ll stay all day,” said Cameron after the race. But that’s a point James isn’t so confident about.

“He’ll relax anywhere in a race, but I’m just not convinced he’s a mile and a half (2400-metre) horse,” said James. “We’ll get a better idea in his next start.”

In that next start Full Count will also most likely race with blinkers. “He wants blinkers on,” said Cameron. “He could have done with them today.”

Full Count has always been held in high regard by James, so much so that he was taken to Sydney last spring after a debut second at Te Teko and a win at Avondale. He finished last in his sole Sydney outing, at Canterbury, and didn’t race again until finishing second over 1400 metres at Ellerslie on December 28.

He then failed at Pukekohe and was found to be suffering a respiratory problem so it was a relief to see him bounce back to top form yesterday.

“It hasn’t been plain-sailing with him,” said James. “He’s had a few issues, but hopefully we’re over them now.”

The NZ Derby is one of James’ favourite races and with good reason. He has won the Ellerslie feature four times – Roysyn (1995), Zonda (1997), Hades (1999) and Silent Achiever (2012).