Smart Derby pick-up ride for McDonald

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24 Oct 2022

The Graeme and Debbie Rogerson-trained three-year-old Sharp ‘N’ Smart is bidding to join an exclusive club when he backs up in Saturday’s Gr.1 VRC Derby (2500m) following his gutsy victory in the Gr.1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m).

Despite racing three-wide throughout, the son of Redwood fought gamely to nail Gr.1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) runner-up Elliptical right on the line.

Only four horses have completed the Spring Champion Stakes-VRC Derby double in Stylish Century (1989), Nothin’ Leica Dane (1995), Monaco Consul (2009), and Ace High (2017) since the inaugural Spring Champion Stakes in 1978.

And that feat has become even more challenging given there is now only a week between the races following the revamp of the Sydney spring carnival.

With Hugh Bowman staying in Sydney for a lucrative card that features the A$10 million Golden Eagle (1500m), James McDonald will take the reins on the hardy Kiwi raider in the time-honoured Flemington feature.

The star rider had been linked to Virtuous Circle, who will not press on to the Derby despite his outstanding effort to finish second in Saturday’s Gr.2 Moonee Valley Vase (2040m) but is delighted with his pick-up ride.

“Sharp ‘N’ Smart was amazing on Saturday,” McDonald told RSN.

“To soldier it out like he did was a phenomenal performance after doing a little bit of work through the mid-stages and being caught wide.

“He is a lovely pick-up ride, so long as he travels down from Sydney to Melbourne okay, and the week back-up is obviously a question mark, but he looks a nice ride.”

Sharp ‘N’ Smart is the $3.50 Derby favourite ahead of Berkley Square ($4) and fellow Kiwi Mr Maestro ($4.20).

“I think the Derby could be won or lost at the barrier draw because there is not much between the good ones,” McDonald said.  – NZ Racing Desk