Picks and plays for Victoria Derby day at Flemington

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 29th, 2020

The Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is underway at Flemington in Australia, building steadily toward Tuesday’s historic Melbourne Cup (G1).

The action heats up on Saturday (Friday night/Saturday morning in the U.S.) with a quartet of Group 1 races on the agenda. Among the highlights is the Victoria Derby (G1, Race 7), a rich 2,500-meter prize that has attracted 14 promising 3-year-olds to the mix.

The Victoria Derby is a classic battle of proven form versus potential. #5 Young Werther (7-2) is a slim favorite in the Australian betting markets, even though the lightly-raced gelding has yet to contest a stakes race of any kind. After rallying to victory in his debut sprinting 1,500 meters, the Danny O’Brien trainee stretched out over 1,800 meters and finished second by a head in the Super Impose S. at Flemington.

O’Brien has been on fire with a 24% win rate, and Super Impose S. third-place finisher #2 Albarado (6-1) returned to win the Caulfield Classic (G3), reiterating the quality of Young Werther’s effort. Still, 7-2 seems like a short price to accept on an unproven runner stepping up significantly in class and trip.

I’m more interested in supporting #1 Cherry Tortoni (7-2). He’s already tried his hand against Group 1 company, finishing seventh in the 2,000-meter Spring Champion (G1) at Randwick, and he displayed improving form when rallying to victory in the 2,000-meter Vase (G2) over soft ground at Moonee Valley last Saturday.

Stretching out in distance shouldn’t be an issue, and from a class perspective Cherry Tortoni is clearly the most accomplished runner in the Victoria Derby field. My one concern involves the course conditions—Cherry Tortoni is 4-for-5 over soft going and 0-for-2 over good ground, with the latter condition expected at Flemington this week. But Cherry Tortoni hasn’t run poorly in his good ground efforts (one was a sprint, the other was Spring Champion), so I’m willing to gamble his proven class will win the day.

  • $20 to win on #1 Cherry Tortoni
  • $5 exacta: 1 with 2,5 ($10)
  • Total: $30

RELATED: Plays for Flemington's carnival from the 'Wizard of Oz'

Additional Flemington spot plays

Race 5, Empire Rose S (G1)

The 3-year-old #12 Odeum boasts a 3-for-4 record, most recently cruising to victory in the 1,600-meter Thousand Guineas (G1) at Caulfield. She’ll stick to her preferred trip at Flemington while stepping up against older rivals, with the Group 1-placed #1 Mystic Journey (7-2) looming as her stiffest competition.

Race 6, Coolmore Stud (G1)

#2 Wild Ruler (11-2) looks like the “now” horse after kicking off his current campaign with a pair of stakes victories. A two-length romp in the Roman Consul (G2) sets the stage for a winning effort under high-percentage jockey James McDonald.

Race 8, Kennedy Cantala (G1)

#2 Mr Quickie (6-1) was impressive when upsetting the 1-mile Toorak H. (G1) at Caulfield three weeks ago, rallying strongly to score by two lengths. He’s kept good company throughout his career and appears to be progressing in the right direction for hot trainer Phillip Stokes. At 6-1, he’s worth betting to win right back.

Good luck!