Hall of Fame trainer Murray Baker has made a habit of winning Derbys in recent years and reckons he will have a good idea if he can add another one after Saturday's Gr.2 Schweppes Avondale Guineas (2100m) at Ellerslie.
Baker produced Sir Vigilant to win the Wellington Derby (2400m) at Trentham in 1985 then waited another 23 years for Nom Du Jeu's Gr.1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick. Since then he has had Lion Tamer win the 2010 Gr.1 Victoria Derby (2400m) at Flemington, won the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie with Mongolian Khan and Vin De Dance and added further Australian Derbys with Dundeel, Mongolian Khan and Jon Snow.
The Cambridge maestro and his training partner Andrew Forsman will saddle Cutadeel, The Chosen One and Bobby Dee in Saturday's Avondale Guineas as a final conditioning run for the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby on March 2.
"It will be a good race. It's a strong field and the Avondale Guineas is usually a great form race for the Derby," Baker said.
TAB bookmakers have installed Cutadeel as a $3.20 favourite for the Avondale Guineas and have the Dundeel gelding as a $6 favourite for the Derby, while The Chosen One at $21 and Bobby Dee at $41 only rank as outside chances for the Baker-Forsman stable on Saturday.
"Cutadeel has won four out of six and done pretty well the whole way through," Baker said.
"His last three wins, he's done it pretty well. He's left us thinking there's more to give. He's fit and healthy and he'll have his chance."
Cutadeel has already won over 2100m at Ellerslie, taking out the Listed 3YO Salver in December before dropping back to 1600m for a comfortable Rating 72 win at Pukekohe over older rivals.
And Baker, who rates Dundeel as the best horse he has trained, believes he has breeding on his side.
"Dundeel is going very well at stud. He's had five stakes winners already, including a Group One winner in South Africa. He's ahead of Snitzel at the same stage," Baker said.
"And Cutadeel is out of a Dylan Thomas mare and he won an Arc [Prix de l'Arc de Triomph over 2400m]. I'm sure he'll stay."
Baker was satisfied with Savabeel colt The Chosen One's fourth placing in last Saturday's Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) at Te Rapa and felt he would be improved by that middle distance run after previously racing at 1400m.
"He raced like he was a bit on the fresh side, raced keen, and I'd say he probably needed the run. It was a funny race. Positions never changed. But he's fit and well. He's thriving at the moment," Baker said.
"He needed another run before the Derby and this suits against his own age. I expect an improved run. His mother won at 2500m so there's no reason he won't stay."
Zed gelding Bobby Dee rounds out the Baker-Forsman Guineas trio.
"He's got to shape up a bit but we think he will stay," Baker said. - NZ Racing Desk