This race, featuring the exciting Northern Meteor, is the best on Derby day at Flemington. The substance in Northern Meteor stems not from what he has done, but the way he has done it.

"Northern Meteor has never been against a horse like Wilander," rival trainer Lee Freedman said in a manner suggesting taking such a short price about the Sydneysider would be foolhardy. Wilander has the outstanding credential of winning the weight-for-age Schillaci Stakes at Caulfield on October 11, beating older horses, particularly the accomplished Lucky Secret, which scored subsequently.

Usually this would spearhead a three-year-old into favouritism against sprinters his own age, even though Wilander could be a risk over the 1200 metres. The difference in performances is confirmed by the Racing Victoria ratings: Wilander on 101, Northern Meteor 86.

Perhaps Northern Meteor accounted for moderates in his two recent Sydney successes for Gai Waterhouse but he sizzled turf for two course records: at Canterbury and Randwick. One record could be put down to wind assistance or the conditions of the day but two indicate Northern Meteor is a serious sprinter.

David Hayes, in assessing his contender Von Costa De Hero against Northern Meteor, pointed out: "Von Costa De Hero has never had the same opposition to dominate as the boom horse."

Maybe it will be argued that first experience of Melbourne down the straight-six course will prove a problem but Northern Meteor was dynamic in an 800-metre trial at Flemington on Tuesday. "I’ve seen horses trial like that before but the result in a race is different," Freedman stressed.

The dangers to Northern Meteor could be Fist Of Fury, trained by John O’Shea, and the filly Impressive Eagle, responsible for two outstanding efforts recently.

VERDICT: Northern Meteor , even at the short odds, for mine.


Being against only the second-tier Australian stayers in the Saab Quality gives Largo Lad a chance to justify his potential. To many, Largo Lad has been disappointing but not if you consider the circumstances.

"I was critical of Craig’s ride last Saturday," David Hayes said concerning Craig Williams’s handling of the gelding in the Moonee Valley Cup, in which Largo Lad was hardly out of second gear due to navigational faults. "And this is the first time [recently] he’s drawn a barrier."

Two starts back, the four-year-old was a 1.9-length fifth under 58 kilograms in the wfa Yalumba Stakes at Caulfield and drops to 53kg today. Hayes hasn’t given up on him as a Melbourne Cup candidate but Light Vision isn’t in the Big One and has the strength and the form to prevent others from qualifying. He was fourth in the Geelong Cup but after a wide and hard run. Get Up Jude from Kembla Grange failed in the Geelong Cup but there was an explanation, and he will carry blinkers. The timing of Bart Cummings is again on show with Moatize and Book Of Kells. Warning: in recent years, Derby day has favoured frontrunners. The Saab could be an indicator of the trend.

VERDICT: On a level playing field, Damien Oliver to bring out the best in Largo Lad .


Princess Coup will be out to continue the trend of New Zealand mares having success in the Mackinnon Stakes. It’s not a flash race for the gender overall but the past five to triumph – La Bella Dama, Champagne, Let’s Elope, Horlicks and Empire Rose – hailed from the Dominion. Overlook Princess Coup’s failure in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley last Saturday. She tailed off in a slowly run race, and Craig Newitt today replaces Opie Bosson. Major Melbourne Cup hopes under surveillance in what was once termed the "Practice Stakes" are Viewed, Littorio, Red Ruler and Barbaricus, in blinkers for the first time. Barbaricus led in the Caulfield Cup for a minor placing, and Theseo, too, should go forward at a sterner tempo than he did in the Cox Plate last Saturday, giving backmarkers a chance if there isn’t a bias. Sirmione staged a form reversal to win the corresponding event last year. His recent form is poor but he likes Flemington.

VERDICT: Get on Princess Coup .


Discussing the Victoria Derby and his outstanding three-year-old Whobegotyou, trainer-of-the-moment Mark Kavanagh quipped: "It’s an open-and-shut case – I think it’s quite open." Kavanagh mentioned that the most recent odds-on favourite to win was Helenus (2002), upon whose path WBU has followed, and it won "by half a inch".

"Short-priced favourites in group 1 races are never over the line," he added. So true, but Whobegotyou’s performances, confirmed by his Racing Victoria rating of 111, are far superior to those of the opposition with the next highest being Carnero on 88. Carnero was ridden for speed behind WBU at Moonee Valley last Saturday and should be given an easier passage by Shane Dye. Pre Eminence, strong and tough, responded to the vigorous riding of Craig Newitt in the Norman Robinson at Caulfield last start and should be on the pace.

VERDICT: WBU from Pre Eminence and Carnero.


Forensics is the ratings tip from Racing Victoria in the Myer. Also trainer Peter Snowden and Kerrin McEvoy regard her as their best chance of the day. However, note the comments of Guy Walter on Bernicia: "She is quite a smart horse, there’s a good race in her and she’s on the way up."

Bernicia worked attractively with rival Mimi Lebrock at Flemington on Tuesday. In the autumn the mare was going well enough to start favourite in the group 1 Arrowfield Stud Stakes at Rosehill. Obviously, Forensics should be hard to beat, while Gallant Tess is another Sydneysider with a top hope. Like most back in the ruck, Gallant Tess didn’t shine in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley last Saturday.

VERDICT: Try the $18 about Bernicia .

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