Avdulla the big winner in jockey merry-go-around
Castelvecchio will have his fourth change of jockey in as many starts for the Group 1 $2 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick next week.
Part-owner John Messara confirmed Brenton Avdulla has been booked to ride Castelvecchio in the feature weight-for-age race on April 11 as James McDonald has a prior commitment to Japanese raider Danon Premium.
McDonald is the new rider of Castelvecchio in the Group 1 $1 million Australian Derby (2400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
He will partner the colt for the first time in an early morning track gallop at Warwick Farm on Monday morning.
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Craig Williams had won the Rosehill Guineas on the crack colt last start but interstate travel restrictions means the Melbourne jockey can't ride for the rest of the Sydney autumn carnival.
Williams replaced Kerrin McEvoy who had ridden Castelvecchio to successive unplaced runs to start his autumn campaign.
Messara said Castelvecchio only has to maintain form and come through the Derby fit and well for the colt to back up in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
"We are keen to run in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes but with James McDonald having a prior commitment to either Danon Premium or Verry Elleegant, we had to find a suitable rider for our colt,'' Messara said.
"Brenton Avdulla has ridden Castelvecchio before in the Spring Champion Stakes so he knows the horse and we booked him for the Queen Elizabeth.
"The feeling is we need an aggressive rider like Brenton to get Castelvecchio into the race early.''
Castelvecchio, trained by Richard Litt, has firmed into favouritism for the Australian Derby after his Rosehill Guineas win.
Messara has raced many outstanding gallopers over the years but surprisingly has never raced a Derby winner.
"I've had two Derby placegetters,'' Messara revealed.
"I shared in the ownership of Sir Midas, who ran second to King's High, in the 1988 Victoria Derby, and also had Miss Bussell run third in the 2002 Queensland Derby behind County Tyrone.
"Castelvecchio is my best chance of winning a Derby.''
In latest TAB Fixed Odds betting on Saturday's three-year-old classic, Castelvecchio and his rival Shadow Hero are joint favourites at $3.50 ahead of Victoria Derby winner Warning at $5, then last Saturday's Tulloch Stakes winner Quick Thinker at $8.
Castelvecchio's Rosehill Guineas win was the first time he had finished in front of Shadow Hero in a race.
Shadow Hero had beaten Castelvecchio home in their three previous clashes including his Group 1 wins in the Spring Champion Stakes and Randwick Guineas.
DERBY TIPPED TO DELIVER ONE FOR THE AGES
Castelvecchio, Shadow Hero and Warning clash again in the most anticipated renewal of the $2 million ATC Australian Derby (2400m) in many years.
Rosehill Guineas winner Castelvecchio was dynamic last start and is back to top form at just the right time for Saturday's three-year-old classic at Royal Randwick.
But he won't lack for opposition in the Derby with Shadow Hero, winner of the Spring Champion Stakes and Randwick Guineas already this season, having beaten Castelvecchio home in three of their four clashes. And Warning is the proven stayer of the trio having won the Victoria Derby with real authority last spring.
Since the ATC Australian Derby was switched from spring to autumn in 1979, there has been only two winners of the Victoria Derby-ATC Australian Derby double - Dulcify (1979) and Mahogany (1993).
Mahogany was trained by Lee Freedman and his brother, Anthony, prepares Warning.
In the Rosehill Guineas, Castelvecchio finished too strongly for Doncaster Mile hopeful Prince Fawaz while Shadow Hero (fourth) and Warning (fifth) were doing their best work on the line.
Freedman has such confidence in Warning's staying ability he is even considering backing up with the three-year-old in the $2 million Sydney Cup (3200m) on Day Two of The Championships at Royal Randwick on April 11.
"The Derby is certainly the plan and we may even look at a Sydney Cup following that just depending on how he's going,'' Freedman said.
Relucent, trained by Chris Waller, ran third in the Rosehill Guineas and is another likely ATC Australian Derby starter. Adding further depth to the field for the Randwick classic is Sherwood Forest, winner of the New Zealand Derby.
Meantime, Kiwi maestro Murray Baker has locked in a new rider for tough three-year-old Quick Thinker when the trainer aims for a fifth win in the $2 million ATC Australian Derby.
Quick Thinker was ridden by champion jockey James McDonald to a resolute win in the Group 2 $200,000 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill Gardens.
But McDonald is already booked for Derby favourite Castelvecchio so Baker moved quickly to book Opie Bosson for Quick Thinker.
"Quick Thinker was pretty strong there, which is encouraging,'' Baker said from New Zealand. "It is onto the Derby now. He's got to go into the Derby with a chance on that run. I would love to keep McDonald because he rode (It's A) Dundeel, but he is riding Castelvecchio.''
Baker, who trains in partnership with Andrew Forsman these days, has already won ATC Australian Derby with Jon Snow (2017), Mongolian Khan (2015), Dundeel (2013) and Nom Du Jeu (2008).
Of this group, only Jon Snow came through the Tulloch Stakes to win the Derby.
In fact, in successive years, Jon Snow, Levendi (2018) and Angel Of Truth (2019) have completed the Tulloch Stakes-ATC Australian Derby double.
Quick Thinker ($2.70 favourite) relished the wet track conditions to win by 1¼ lengths from Zebrowski ($4) with Diasonic ($13) nearly a length away third.
"The track is playing pretty heavy, you need a good, fit horse that handles it really well because they are making hard work of it,'' McDonald said. "He is a proven wet tracker, he got through it well, he is fit and he'll be a force to be reckoned with come the Derby."
Quick Thinker firmed from $15 into $11 for the ATC Australian Derby where Castelvecchio remains the $3.50 favourite.
"I was worried about the distance, not much the track,'' Baker said. "He is out of an Al Maher mare so I thought the distance might get him, but that was a good tough effort.
"It is always nice to win and that is my fifth win in this race. I won it with Our Palliser (1987), The Bill (1993), Harris Tweed (2009) and Jon Snow (2017), so it has been a good race to me.''
Zebrowski loomed up as a winning chance halfway down the straight but he seemed uneasy in the wet track and his effort to finish second was meritorious given how hard it was for horses to make ground wider out on the track.
MAMARAGAN CAN PRODUCE THE GOODS
Mamaragan will be the only Golden Slipper placegetter in the Group 1 $1 million ATC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Slipper winner Farnan is already in the spelling paddock and will be aimed at The Everest next spring, while runner-up Away Game is being reserved for the Percy Sykes Stakes on Day Two of The Championships.
But Mamaragan trainer John Thompson was buoyed by jockey Nash Rawiller's confidence his colt will run a strong 1400m.
"Nash believes Mamaragan won't have a problem with the Sires distance,'' Thompson said.
"Mamaragan has only had the two starts, he's still on 'fresh' legs, he's come through the Golden Slipper in great order so we will press on to the Sires.''
In early Sires betting, Mamaragan shares favouritism at $8 with Prague and Aim.
Prague, winner of the Canonbury Stakes and Pago Pago Stakes, is also coming out of the Slipper where he was working to the line well to finish sixth.
Aim has been trained specifically with the Sires in mind, finishing third to Mamaragan in the Skyline Stakes then fourth to Prague in the Pago Pago.
Over the last decade, the fillies have mixed it with the "boys" in this race with five wins - Yosei (2010), Guelph (2013), Peggy Jean (2014), Yankee Rose (2016) and El Dorado Dreaming (2018).
Hungry Heart, a daughter of English superhorse Frankel, ran a close fifth in the Golden Slipper and is a chance to run in the Sires. Blue Diamond placegetter Personal struggled on the wet track in the Slipper when she finished down the track but is also likely to run on Saturday.
Originally published as Avdulla the big winner in jockey merry-go-around