Trainer Phillip Stokes has not saddled a runner in the Victoria Derby previously, but is confident his first entrant, Colonel Custer, has the class to salute in the race’s 2015 edition at Flemington on Saturday.
Colonel Custer has been a strong and consistent performer for Stokes through a short by impressive five start career so far and has made a competitive transition to black type racing in his two most recent starts; running second in the Listed Hill Smith Stakes (1800m) before a luckless run for seventh in the Listed Geelong Classic (2200m) on October 21st.
Having been checked out of the Geelong Classic rounding onto the final straight having already experienced a tough run in transit, Stokes is happy to forget about the run and is confident the wide Flemington track and 2500m boasted by the 2015 Victoria Derby will suit his runner to the ground.
“He did well to finish where he did,” Stokes told AAP.
“When he missed the kick and went back on him, he relaxed nicely which I was happy to see because he can be a bit revvy in his trackwork.
“It’s a Derby and going to 2500 metres for the first time, it will see a few of them out.
“I think he can run it out, but we’ll see.
“It’s exciting to have a runner in the Derby.”
Stokes saddled four winners through the 2014 edition of the Melbourne Cup Carnival undoubtedly highlighted by Hucklebuck’s success in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m), and the leading South Australian trainer is hopeful he can experience a similarly glittering week this time around.
“That was unbelievable,” Stokes said.
“If we can get a winner this year I’ll be rapt. We’ll see how we go.”
Trialling well in the lead-up to his competitive debut, Colonel Custer immediately stamped his claims as one to watch to watch upon debuting to racing for success in the Wolf Blass Grey Label Maiden (1212m) on July 26th.
Progressing to fifth in the E Dunkley & J Lee BM70 (1400m), the Savabeel colt ran second in the James Boag’s Premier BM64 (1300m) in his only other start prior to the Hill Smith Stakes.
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