SIcario and Mark Purdon, winning the Northern Derby Prelude last month. Photo: Trish Dunell.
Despite being tasked with the widest alley in the race, Sicario has opened as the post-draw favourite for Friday night’s New Zealand Pacing Derby with TAB bookmakers.
The Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen-trained three-year-old was at $3.40 by late afternoon, clearly ahead of stablemate Anthem ($4) and Sheriff ($4), both of whom drew the second row in the $200,000 Group 1 feature.
Aside from being in the country’s premier stable (one which has won five of the last six runnings of the race), Sicario has the best credentials, having run a close second to absent stablemate Chase Auckland in the Northern Derby last month.
Purdon will stick with Sicario as his drive while Rasmussen will pilot Anthem, who has been a massive shortener in markets after being as long as $26 just a few weeks ago.
Purdon will be shooting for his third New Zealand Derby win in a row as both a trainer and driver after winning the last two editions with Lazarus and Vincent.
Sicario showed impressive gate speed to lead in the Northern Derby Prelude three starts ago, but he will be unlikely to cross noted speedsters Pat’s Delight ($10.50) and Alta Maestro ($20) this time.
Purdon will also carry the support of punters in the New Zealand Trotting Derby earlier in the night after the filly, Luby Lou, opened a $3.80 elect with bookies, despite racing the boys.
The $100,000 Group 1 feature has attracted a very strong field and bookies are playing it safe with four other horses in double figures – Paramount King ($5.80), Valloria ($6.20), Winterfell ($6.20) and Girls On Film ($7.20).
Luby Lou was victorious in the Trotting Oaks against her own sex at her last start and will be repeating a rare double that has only been achieved twice before – by Escapee (2012) and Habibti (2013).
The night’s other Group 1 event, the $100,000 New Zealand Trotting Championship, has seen established star Speeding Spur come up a near even-money favourite at $2.10 after returning to the winner’s circle a fortnight ago.
His main adversary this season, Temporale, is on the second line of betting at $3.40, both of the northerners pulling handy front-line draws, while Canterbury four-year-old Enghien is at $5.80 after drawing the inside of the second line.
Despite being beaten in the Easter Cup after a soft trip last week, More The Better opened a $2.10 favourite for the Group 2 $50,000 Superstars Championship while his unbeaten stablemate, War Dan Delight, was the $2.30 elect in the Group 2 $50,000 Welcome Stakes for juveniles.