Long Jack winning the Listed Geelong Classic (2200m). Photo: Bruno Cannatelli
Cambridge trainer Murray Baker’s biggest fear has become a reality.
Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2500m) hopeful Long Jack has drawn the outside barrier of 16 for Saturday’s A$2 million contest.
The wide berth continues a series of high draws for Baker and training partner Andrew Forsman in Melbourne this spring, where the stable are campaigning a team of three horses.
The Chosen One started from the outside gate (barrier 18) in the G.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m), while stablemate Madison County has drawn in the carpark (17 of 18 and 11 of 11) at his last two starts.
“You wouldn’t read about it,” a disappointed Baker said.
“The 2500m Derby start at Flemington is right in front of the grandstand and there is not long until they hit the first bend.”
But more of a concern for Baker is that the last time Long Jack was at Flemington, the showy colt melted pre-race.
“My biggest worry is that he is going to boil-over in front of that big crowd there,” he said.
“He wore ear-muffs down to the start at Geelong last time and he was pretty quiet. They seemed to work, and we will do the same again on Saturday, as well as having two handlers.”
The last start winner of the Listed Geelong Classic (2200m), Long Jack has been ridden by Damian Lane in all four starts this spring, but the in-form hoop will not be riding at Flemington on Saturday, due to a suspension he incurred from his Caulfield Cup victory on Mer de Glace.
“Craig Williams will ride him on Saturday and he is riding in great form too,” Baker said. “He rode him in a gallop at Flemington this morning (Tuesday) and was happy.”
Baker is confident his charge is ready for a serious staying test, with the elegant and lightly framed Long Jack bred to excel over ground.
“He is a good stayer. He is by So You Think out of a Monsun mare. I’ve got no doubt that he should stay the distance, which is half the battle.
“He certainly stayed at Geelong, he was just getting into it at the finish.
“You’ve got to get him to relax. He got a bit stewed up at Flemington at his previous start.”
The pros and cons of spring three-year-olds contesting a 2500m feature has been the subject of industry debate once again in recent weeks, however, the Derby looks to have drawn a deep field this year.
“There looks to be some good types in the Derby this year,” Baker said. “Ken Keys’ horse, Soul Patch, was strong to the line the other day at Moonee Valley and obviously the two favourites (Shadow Hero and Thought Of That) bring good form.
“We’ve just got to take our chance and Flemington is a big track.”
Meanwhile, The Chosen One is set to contest Saturday’s Gr.3 Hotham Handicap (2500m) with Mark Zahra booked to ride.
“I’m very happy with him. He is fit and happy and the outside barrier didn’t help him at Caulfield last start. He had to go back to last and had a lot of work to do and when he came wide he copped that wind.”
The Chosen One is currently 26th in order of entry for the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) on Tuesday and will likely have to win the Hotham Handicap to gain a start.