Not many trainers can say half of their racing team are Derby contenders, but that’s the case for Andrew Campbell.
The Cambridge conditioner still has five three-year-olds nominated for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) with four being realistic chances of making the field.
Campbell, who privately trains for a group of owners including successfully real estate magnate Tommy Heptinstall, has 10 horses in work and said it is a fantastic feeling to be able to reward his loyal owners after a tough few years.
“They are the same crowd from day one,” Campbell said. “They have been with me for about 15 years now.
“They are all I train for and they have been fantastic and very loyal.
“It’s well known that we had a virus go through the team and any other owners would have jumped ship, but these guys stayed.
“We trained two winners in two years I think and not many owners would stay loyal to you like that. It’s been great and hopefully I can pay them back with a result in the Derby.”
The group have had plenty of success in the past with horses of the ilk of dual Group One winner and ill-fated stallion Tavistock and Campbell is hoping one of his five Derby contenders can follow a similar path.
“We have still got five in there (Derby),” Campbell said. “At this stage Aqueduct is the only one that probably won’t make it there, it’s just a bit soon.
“We are going to take three to the Waikato Guineas and one to the Avondale Guineas. Hopefully they perform well enough to carry on to the Derby.”
The three that Campbell has set for the Gr.2 Legacy Lodge Waikato Guineas (2000m) at Te Rapa on Saturday include Vladivostok, Pimlico and Peloton.
All three take strong formlines into this weekend but Campbell said punters can rule a line through Pimlico’s last start sixth-placing in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m).
“I was very disappointed with the ride,” Campbell said. “He wasn’t meant to go to the lead. I thought he could have slotted in and got a trail.
“I think his first 800m was the fastest of the race, so he had nothing left at the end, but he still stuck on.
“With an easier 800m I think he would have been thereabouts. He should have been closer than he was if he was ridden to instructions.”
Campbell said he is particularly looking forward to Peloton competing against his own age group on Saturday.
“He has been in great form. We have been mixing his races up, 2000m and back to a mile, just to keep his brain on the job.
“He has stepped up every time. It is going to be good seeing him race against his own age group for a change because he has been running against three, four, and five-year-olds.”
Meanwhile, Campbell is saving his pick of his three-year-olds, Tibetan, for the Gr.2 Jamieson Park Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie on Saturday-week.
The son of Shocking has placed in two stakes races to date and finished fifth last start in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic.
“I was very happy with his run in the Karaka Million,” Campbell said. “He hit the line nicely and 1600m was way too short. It was a $1 million race so we thought we would freshen him up and go for the mile.
“We are more than happy with him. He hit the line strong and his main aim has always been the Derby.
“I think he is a seriously good horse. More ground and even with a bit of cut out of the track would help him immensely.
“At this stage, for the Derby, he is the one I really like. On his pedigree he should see the distance out.”
Three of his five Derby aspirants are New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sale graduates and both Campbell and Heptinstall were back at Karaka last week purchasing what they hope to be their next stars.
In all, the pair purchased eight yearlings out of the three sessions of New Zealand Bloodstock’s sale, including one yearling from Book 1 – lot 564, the Flying Artie colt out of a full-sister to Group One winner Age Of Fire from Leanach Lodge’s draft for $30,000.
“We weren’t intending to buy so many, but at the prices we couldn’t help ourselves,” Campbell said.
“We should have had a straight-jacket on up there, we went a bit mad, but hopefully it will pay off in a couple of years’ time.”
In the meantime Campbell is looking forward to the next month and hopefully having a strong contingent in the Derby at Ellerslie on February 29.
“It’s quite a buzz really,” he said. “Even to have one in a race like that is a thrill.”