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 New Zealand Gallops News 
Wednesday, March 01 2017

It may sound strange, but Vinnie Colgan can thank a fully booked Singapore-bound flight for his opportunity to extend his wonderful New Zealand Derby record on Saturday.

Colgan is the most successful rider in New Zealand Derby history with six wins, but he was in jeopardy of having to sit out this year’s feature after his original mount, Romancer, was withdrawn yesterday because of a hoof problem.

Within a few hours he had picked up the ride on the Shaune Ritchie-trained Redeem The Dream in the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby, but it was a close call.

Top international rider Gerald Mosse had been approached by owner Dominic Li to ride Redeem The Dream, and on stand-by was Matamata apprentice Sam Weatherley, who had finished fourth on him in the Gr. 2 Avondale Guineas.

“Dominic and Gerald are good friends and Gerald was okay to come over, but we couldn’t get him on a flight back to Singapore for him to be back in time for his (riding) engagements on Sunday,” Ritchie said. “There is a flight, but it’s fully booked.”

At that stage Weatherley looked set to be in the hot seat for the Derby, but when Colgan became available experience won out over youth.

“We intended to put Sam on if someone of Vinnie’s quality wasn’t available, but when Vinnie’s horse was scratched we had to go that way,” Ritchie said.

“Talent is great, but experience is greater and how can you argue against putting Vinnie on? He’s won more Derbys than anyone else.

“Sam is young and he’ll get his Derby chances in the future.”

Colgan (41) won his first New Zealand Derby in 1995 on Royson for his employer, Roger James, who was then training in partnership with Ross Taylor. He also won his next two for James, the first with Zonda in 1997 when James had Lance Noble as a training partner, and the other with Hades in 1999.

Colgan had to wait eight years for his fourth New Zealand Derby win, on the Sydney visitor Redoute’s Dancer in 2007, and has since won in two of the last four years, on Habibi in 2013 and Rangipo last year.

Redeem The Dream’s lead-up form to the Derby is inferior to Colgan’s last three Derby winners or Zonda, who had completed a hat-trick in the Avondale Guineas. But Ritchie believes the son of Nadeem shouldn’t be overlooked.

“Honestly I believe he’s the big improver out of the Avondale Guineas,” Ritchie said.

“A couple of times this season I have had to back off him, but he was good in the Avondale Guineas and he hasn’t missed a beat since then. This is the first time I’ve had him fully race fit.

“In fact both my horses, Redeem The Dream and Excalibur, are smokeys in the Derby.”

Redeem The Dream has a win and two placings from five starts, while Excalibur, a son of boom sire Tavistock, picked up his second win from eight starts when winning over 2100 metres at Ellerslie last start.

“Excalibur has always been on track and he mightn’t have run in the usual lead-up races, but he’s done the mileage and he’ll stay,” Ritchie said.

As with Redeem The Dream, Excalibur will be ridden by a jockey who has tasted Derby success. Jonathan Riddell, who won the 2011 New Zealand Derby on Jimmy Choux, is his regular rider.

When it comes to Derby success, Ritchie has also been there and done that, having won the 2010 edition with Military Move, and so has one of Excalibur’s owners, Peter Mitchell.

Excalibur races in Mitchell’s colours made famous by the champion Bonecrusher, who won the New Zealand Derby in 1985 and the following autumn took the Australian Derby. And the loyal strapper who made the headlines during Bonecrusher’s wonderful career was none other than Shaune Ritchie.

Posted by: Racing Desk AT 11:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email