All the talk ends around 4pm local time on Saturday when the most eagerly anticipated SA Derby in years will be run and won over 2500m Morphettville.
The Group 1 classic has drawn together a fascinating field, with three clear favourites, but excellent depth beyond what most consider the top trio.
Dalasan has been the SA Derby favourite for some time – and with good reason.
Trained by locals Leon Macdonald and Andrew Gluyas, Dalasan has taken all before him since returning to SA, posting dominant wins in the traditional Derby lead-ups: the Listed Port Adelaide Guineas (1600m) and the Group 3 Chairman’s Stakes (2035m). A victory on Saturday would be the second SA Derby for Macdonald, who trained 2009 winner Rebel Raider, and also the second for jockey Jason Holder.
2019 VRC Derby winner Warning is proven over the distance and looms as the logical danger, particularly given his last run – in the Chairman’s behind Dalasan – had a red flashing light all over it.
The Victorian-based Anthony Freedman stable is confident Warning – bound for the 2020 Melbourne Cup – will perform well this weekend.
The third of the ‘big three’ is the untapped Russian Camelot, trained by reigning Melbourne Cup winner Danny O’Brien. In just four starts Russian Camelot has stamped himself a potential star, including a narrow defeat in a Listed race over 1800m in just his second start during the Melbourne Cup carnival.
Last start, Russian Camelot romped to a seven-length win in a low-grade 1600m race at Pakenham, however the horse has endured a minor setback on his way to the SA Derby.
A glance at the TAB odds might suggest the race will be dominated by those three, but plenty of interest – and some top three hopes, at least – lurks within the rest of the field.
The Moonlitegambler has done little wrong in his two SA starts, and although well beaten by Dalasan on both occasions, endured tougher runs than the Derby favourite. Trainer John McArdle is adamant The Moonitegambler will relish the 2500m trip.
A genuine Derby wildcard is champion NSW trainer Chris Waller’s sole runner, Miyake. A benchmark 70 win over 1900m at a low-key Canterbury meeting may not scream ‘Derby candidate’, but the son of Deep Field overcame some bad luck to win running away.
The three fillies in the field add an extra layer of interest to the SA Derby – and all have claims.
Moonlight Maid ran an enormous race against her own sex in the Schweppes Oaks over 2000m last Saturday. She made a mid-race move to the front, but was still able to finish strongly.
The Hayes-Hayes-Dabernig runner Zayydani also ran a super race in the Oaks, enjoying little luck up the straight before finishing better than anything else to be beaten just over two lengths. The stable is looking for back-to-back Derby wins with fillies, after Qafila left the boys in her wake to win last year’s renewal.
Silent Sovereign finished 10th in the Oaks, but her two previous runs were full of merit, including a victory in the Group 3 Auraria Stakes over 1800m.
Victorian jockey John Allen is gunning for his third SA Derby win aboard Russian Camelot, after wins in 2016 (Howard Be Thy Name) and 2017 (Volatile Mix).
Selections: 1. Warning; 2. Russian Camelot; 3. Dalasan; 4. Moonlight Maid.