Formidable (Leith Innes) edges out The Boy Wonder (Patrick Moloney) in Ellerslie's Listed feature.
Formidable passed his first big test along the road to the New Zealand Derby with a last-to-first victory in today’s Listed Auckland Age Concerns 3YO Salver at Ellerslie.
Patiently ridden by Leith Innes, who won the race in similar style on Thunder Down Under two years ago, the $2.50 favourite raced well back in the small field throughout the 2100-metre contest. He was clearly last at the 200-metre mark as his six rivals lined up across the track to make their bids.
But Innes found a gap between them and Formidable burst through, snatching a long-neck victory on the line from The Boy Wonder. Secret Ambition was another half a length away in third.
Formidable, who has had two wins and two placings from his six starts, is now rated a $26 chance in the TAB’s fixed-odds market for the Vodafone New Zealand Derby on March 3.
The son of Shocking is trained by Shaune Ritchie, who also shares ownership with a group that includes major stable client Kirk Devers’ KRD Racing.
“That’s the sort of performance you like to see when you’re pressing forward towards the big dance in March,” the Cambridge trainer said. “He’s got his ticket, I guess, with that win today.
“He’s a horse who just keeps improving. He hadn’t got it right each time, he’s made some mistakes, but he’s got better and better as he’s stepped up over more ground – that’s another thing you like to see. He ran strongly right to the line today.
“Not many jockeys ride Ellerslie as well as Leith. You don’t often see him go wide, and he always seems to find a run. I guess we were lucky we were only a couple of lengths from the leaders when we were last at the 200, but he knew he had the horse under him.”
In the 11 years since the New Zealand Derby was shifted from December to March, only one winner of this race has gone on to classic glory – Mongolian Khan in 2014-15.
“This is a race that hasn’t got a great record going on to the Derby – I think people don’t like to be running their three-year-olds this early,” Ritchie said.
“He’ll go to the paddock now for 10 days, and then we’ll find a 1600-metre race before the Avondale Guineas and the Derby.
“We just might run him in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic – he’s got an entry for it. We might have to put blinkers on him to sharpen him up a bit, it’s a bit short for him, but it’s a million-dollar race and you have to have a go.”
Formidable was bred by Rich Hill Stud’s Thompson family, and he was offered in Rich Hill’s draft at the 2016 Select Sale at Karaka. He sold to KRD Racing for $39,000.