About the only time Linda Huddy was lost for words was when she was asked about her trainer, Chris Waller.
“He’s a genius, what can you say? It’s amazing what he can do, quinellaing the Coolmore [Stud Stakes] and now he has this,” she said. “Words fail me.”
In between were all the euphoric adjectives and statements you might think twice about making in the morning.
“He’s going to win the AJC Derby and then we’ll sell him for millions,” Huddy joked after Preferment ground to victory in the $1.5 million classic, ticking off another major for Waller with his first runner in the race.
Added fellow part-owner Debbie Kepitis: “He’s going to be the next Zabeel.”
They were entitled to say what they wanted. Despite Preferment being well found in Derby markets as second favourite behind Gai Waterhouse’s Hampton Court, there was still somewhat of an element of surprise about the colt’s narrow win.
Waller said he was still learning about preparing horses for Guineas and Derby races. And the horse was, after all, still a maiden.
“It’s been a plan and it has come off and there is nothing better,” Huddy said. “Nothing better.
“[Waller] was frustrated that he hadn’t won [before the Derby]. Little tracks and little straights, but look at him today. There is a big long straight here and it was absolutely perfect for him.
“I was nervous before and you want the horse to do well for everyone else as well. When it’s a horse you look at yourself, buy yourself as a yearling … you can’t compare children.”
The last reference was to a silly question about Preferment and the Huddys’ 2010 Australian Derby winner Shoot Out. Regardless, both are horses of enormous talent at a similar age.
If they can have even a modicum of the longevity Damien Oliver has had in the game they will be doing well.
The evergreen Oliver chalked up his fifth Victoria Derby win 22 years after his first with Redding, coincidentally on the last horse to break his maiden status in the 2500-metre struggle around Flemington.
Oliver has watched international racing’s fly-in men like Joao Moreira dominate on visits to Australia, and a dual group 1 success on the country’s signature race day was just a little reminder they were playing on his turf.
“This is one of our greatest days of the year,” he said. “It’s great to get some competitive rides and still be amongst it. We’ve seen Joao come out and we know what a star he is and it’s nice to be matching it with the world’s elite.”
Waller is certainly nestled in the training elite, both here and abroad.
“He’s great to ride for and his horses are never going to lie down in a finish and they keep going for you,” Oliver said.
Caught back and wide, Preferment had one of the tougher trips of the Derby runners and yet was still boxing on at the finish. He paired off with Danny O’Brien’s Bondeiger over the latter stages and came out a long-head victor, with Nozomi one-and-a-quarter lengths away in third.
“He’s probably not the worst horse to be caught there because he’s a tough stayer that needs to wind up,” Oliver said.
“Coming around the side from about the 1000 to the 600, I was hoping one would pop out and I could get a bit of a trail and follow it. Then Magicool popped out and gave me a little bit of a breather which helped him finish it off.”
Gai Waterhouse and the Sydney glitterati of radio kingpin Alan Jones and businessman James Packer would have little joy with favourite Hampton Court. The Spring Champion Stakes winner weakened considerably late to finish eighth.
“I sort of asked him to quicken into his work at the 600 as he takes a bit of winding up, but all of a sudden they were up and around me at the 400,” jockey Kerrin McEvoy said.
“He might have peaked on his last run and today might have been one run too far into his preparation.”
Source: Adam Pengally