By Brad Gray
In 2016 Natalie Young became the first woman trainer to win the Australian Derby, when Tavago proved a dominant victor, and there is a tempered confidence about Young that she has the horse to do it again this year.
Young, who trains in partnership with Trent Busuttin, has three runners in Saturday's $2m Harrolds Australian Derby (2400m) but Belfast is the pick of them, which is also reflected in the market where Belfast is $9 with TAB while Salsamor is $18 and Main Stage $51.
Belfast screamed into Derby calculations as fast he finished off the Tulloch Stakes last weekend, with Punters’ Intel revealing he ran his last 200m in 11.50s, coming home three lengths faster than any of his rivals.
“Jon Snow won the Tulloch last year and then came out and won the Derby. Going in at just his sixth start, he’s the one with the best finish so he’s probably on top,” Young said of her team.
“I thought he’d run really well. I said to Michael (Walker) to not have him any further back than midfield but he played up in the gates so those were the circumstances unfortunately but I knew he’d run home.”
The three-year-old son of Teofilo has just been “ticking over” since his fifth in the Tulloch, which included a very leisurely gallop around Royal Randwick on Tuesday morning at Breakfast With The Stars. It was certainly a far cry from the 34.33s last 600m split he ran on Saturday, instead stopping the clock at 59.48s.
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“He’s bouncing around and come through that race brilliantly,” Young reported.
“Out of the three he is the toughest. You could back him up three days later and he’d come out and win. He’s just got that Teofilo toughness about him. Salsamor is a lovely Tavistock but will probably need the cut out of the track whereas Belfast is more versatile. It won’t matter if he’s on top of the ground.”
Despite 2040m being as far as Belfast has raced over, which was two starts ago in the Alister Clark behind Cliff’s Edge who ties in the Rosehill Guineas form line, Young is more concerned about barrier 17 (15 without emergencies) than the extra trip.
“The way he has hit the line, you’d surely think he’ll get the 2400m. The wide gate may force us to go back like the other day and cuddle him up so he can get 2400m but I don’t really have any doubt about that,” she said.
Then there’s the fact that Kerrin McEvoy, who is widely regarded as the world’s best distance jockey, takes the ride after Tangmere failed to fire in the Tulloch.
“My horse disappointed there so I was looking for other options and he was the one that stood out,” said McEvoy.
“I haven’t ridden the horse but he was eye-catching running home at Rosehill and the extra distance looks to suit. Trent and Nat know how to prepare a stayer so there are a few positives going into the race. Obviously the barrier makes it tougher but we’ve got to try to offset that now. It’s a wide open race.”
Belfast running home into fifth in the Tulloch
Belfast may be the stable’s top seed but Young warned not to discount Salsamor, who is raced by the same owners in Belfast, or Main Stage, who ran fifth in the Victoria Derby behind Ace High over the spring.
“We’ve won the Derby before with a $31 shot so he might be one of those outsiders that could perch up,” Young said of Main Stage.
“We’ve freshened him up and given him a few short 600m gallops and he is back doing handstands walking around in the mornings and afternoons. They have all thrived since being here in the warmer weather.”
Young rates Ace High as the horse to beat while is all too familiar with Murray Baker’s dominance in the classics both in New Zealand and Australia.
“Murray Baker has got four in it and he’s the Derby king. He knows what he is doing and is best at the game of winning Derbys. I wind him up all the time saying I’ll be the Derby queen but I need to win a couple more yet.”