No silent approach to Derby now

Cambridge filly Silent Achiever has thrown out the warning to her male opposition that it could be a year for “girl power” in the Group I Telecom NZ Derby.

Not since Popsy won the 1993 Derby has a filly succeeded in Ellerslie’s feature three-year-old event and you have to go back seven years to find the previous one, Tidal Light. Ironically Tidal Light was trained by Jim Gibbs in partnership with Roger James and the latter prepares Silent Achiever.

If James and owner Kevin Hickman needed any further persuasion to pay a late entry fee for the Telecom NZ Derby on March 3 they certainly got it at Ellerslie today.

Silent Achiever is sure to have been crunched into favouritism for the Derby following her effortless win in the Group II Falls Restaurant and Mullins Tyres Avondale Guineas (2100m). The O’Reilly filly simply annihilated her rivals, winning by one and a quarter lengths with ease.

Settled last by rider James McDonald, Silent Achiever had one behind her across the top and seemingly in no time she was up issuing her challenge down the outside early in the run home. And from there on the only question was going to be the winning margin.

It was a performance which had McDonald buzzing. “She’s incredible,” said McDonald. “I didn’t even have to hit her or anything. I learnt more about her today and one thing is for sure. You won’t see me in front at the top of the straight in the Derby.”

Trainer Roger James was surprised to see Silent Achiever hit the front so soon. “She got there very quickly and probably a bit early, but she was strong at the line. I’m really pleased.”

James describes Silent Achiever as a pretty easy filly to train. “She had only one piece of fastwork between her last run and today,” he said. “I’ll talk it over with her owner, but I’d say we’d be going to the Derby now.”

James has already won four NZ Derbies. Nine years after Tidal Light’s success, he won it with Roysyn (also an Avondale Guineas winner), then two years later Zonda was successful and in 1999 it was Hades’ turn.

Silent Achiever has now won her last three starts and each win has been a stakes race. She preceded today’s win with victory in the H.S. Dyke Waikato Guineas.

Chasing Silent Achiever home today was Shuka, who ran second to her in the Group II Radio Live Championship Stakes and third to her in the Waikato Guineas.

Carrick, from the Cambridge stable of Tony Pike and Mark Donoghue, fought well for third, a nose from the runner-up, after racing greenly in the home straight. It was a run which suggests he should press on for the Derby.