VRC Derby repeat on the cards?

Cambridge trainer Murray Baker seems on the verge of a second Gr 1 VRC Derby win at Flemington.

That was the message handed out loud and clear when the stable’s exciting three-year-old Dundeel (who races in Australia as It’s A Dundeel) took his unbeaten sequence to four in the Group III $A200,000 Gloaming Stakes at Randwick yesterday.

With regular rider James McDonald in the saddle, Dundeal settled well off the pace as former Kiwi jockey Jim Cassidy tore off to a clear lead on Strength. Dundeel was still well back on straightening for the run home and when asked for an effort by McDonald he responded in the manner of a very smart horse to charge down the centre of the track and win going away by a length and a quarter.

Baker and his son, Bjorn, won the 2010 VRC Derby with Lion Tamer and last year it was another Cambridge-trained galloper, Sangster, who won the same race for trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young.

Lion Tamer had opened his Australian account with a win in the Ming Dynasty Stakes before finishing seventh in the Gloaming Stakes, fifth in the Spring Champion Stakes and second in the AAMI Vase on route to the Flemington three-year-old feature.

Dundeel still had a way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as the ill-fated Lion Tamer, whose last win came 12 months ago in the Turnbull Stakes, won yesterday by another Kiwi, Ocean Park.

“He’s got to do it yet when he gets to Group One level, but hopefully he’ll get down to Melbourne,” said Baker after yesterday’s win. “He keeps stepping up and that’s the sign of a good horse. He was up in grade today and he produced a good sprint at the finish.”

McDonald was also very impressed by Dundeel yesterday.

“He’s improved a lot since his last start,” said McDonald. “It’s a big improvement to go from winning midweek to winning a Group race today. He keeps improving and improving and has a real spring in his step. He’s enjoyable to ride and distance is going to be his friend.” 

Baker has believed in Dundeel’s talent from the outset and was quick to recognise his potential as a VRC Derby prospect.

 Dundeel won a maiden two-year-old race at Ellerslie last April and had just one further New Zealand public outing, at the Te Teko trials last month, before Baker took him to Sydney. That was a noteworthy trial as Dundeel finished third behind Ocean Park, who has gone on to claim both the Group I Makfi Challenge Stakes at Hastings and the Group I Turnbull Stakes.

Dundeel won his Australian debut, over 1350 metres at Wyong, then stepped up successfully to 1580 metres at Canterbury before taking the next step up to 1800 metres at Randwick yesterday.  His next mission is over 2000 metres in the Group I $A400,000 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on October 6, while the Group I $A1.5million AAMI Victoria Derby is over 2500m at Flemington on November 3.

Yesterday’s win has resulted in Dundeel’s Australian TAB Fixed Odds for the Spring Champion Stakes shortened from $9 into $6.50.