Guesswork Required to Pick Group 1 Victoria Derby Winner

The Saturday before Cup day will not find Flemington racecourse idle, no, not by any stretch.

Four Group 1 races grace the card that will build anticipation for the Melbourne Cup to fever levels. There is also one Group 2 and three Group 3s, so the chance to see the best of the best will never be better.

With so much going on, we find it hard to limit our topic, so we arbitrarily decided to focus on the Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500), mainly due to our personal appreciation for the stayers.

The Victoria Derby was first run in 1855, so it predates the Melbourne Cup by six years. Unlike some of the other major races, not much mucking about has been done to the Victoria Derby, other than some minor adjustments to the distance done mainly to accommodate the switch to metric measurement. It was a Principal race before the adoption of the Group system and it has always been for three-year-olds at set weights.

Those who appreciate trivia might be surprised to learn that despite the race being restricted to three-year-olds, which would seem to imply one win per customer, there was a two-time winner in 1867 – 68, when Fireworks took advantage of a change in the racing calendar to win twice.

Punters should resist the temptation to view the Victoria Derby as a form guide for three-year-olds destined to win the Melbourne Cup. Efficient won the Derby in 2006 and the Melbourne Cup in 2007, but Phar Lap (1929) was the only other to win the Derby and then the Melbourne Cup (1930) the following year.

In the early markets, ahead of the final field and barrier draw announcements, Main Stage is the early favourite, carrying a $4.80 price on the website of Ladbrokes. The bay gelding by Great Britain’s Reliable Man from New Zealand’s Kiri has jumped six time and won or placed in all six, but has never won beyond 1800 metres or raced beyond 2000 m.

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