Baker upbeat despite Dundeel’s disappointing defeat

Murray Baker
Murray Baker

Murray Baker is taking a philosophical view of Dundeel's defeat in Saturday's A$1.5 million Victoria Derby.

The Cambridge trainer said he had been wary that the Derby campaign had taken its toll on the Gr I-winning High Chaparral colt leading into the race.

"I'd been worried he was coming to the end of it. He's been up a long time. He had his chance but it's just a pity it had to happen in the big one," Baker said.

Dundeel settled fourth-last of the 16 runners and though he finished stoutly down the outside, rider James McDonald said he was worried when the three-year-old needed urging along well before the home turn.

Despite that, Dundeel clocked 57.83 for his last 1000m, the last 600 in 34.02, more than a second quicker than the winner Fiveandahalfstar. He finished seventh.

"He's tired. I got past the line and he'd just had enough," McDonald said.

"He's come a long way in a short time. From the 800m I knew he was in trouble because he wasn't responding but he still tried his guts out."

Baker was disappointed he couldn't win the Derby but took solace from a winning treble in New Zealand, including the feature double at Awapuni of the Feilding Cup to deadheater Jeu de Cartes and the Redcraze Bowl to Lady Kipling.

"At least I've won three races today but it's a shame I couldn't get the one that really mattered," Baker said.

"I wouldn't say he didn't stay but he just whacked away. He got a long way back and he ran on well but the leaders didn't stop. He just plugged that last bit and he had his chance."

Baker said Dundeel would fly home on Thursday to spell ahead of a Sydney autumn campaign targeting the Gr I A$1.5 million Australian Derby (2400m) on April 13.

Meanwhile, Michael Walker was left to lament a Derby that got away.

"I should have won. I'm gutted. Nash [Rawiller riding Our Desert Warrior] came underneath me on the bend and nearly knocked me over," he said.

Walker's mount Rawnaq came from well back in the field to finish third, also having to be steadied off heels in the straight.

"That's a Derby that got away and it shouldn't have," Walker said.

Earlier, big-race jockey Glen Boss said the Mackinnon Stakes was a bridge too far for Cox Plate winner Ocean Park.

The Matamata colt failed to reproduce his best form and finished third to Alcopop and Glass Harmonium in the Gr I A$1 million Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington, ending his winning streak at four straight Gr I weight-for-age features.

Boss noted that the Gary Hennessy-trained Ocean Park hadn't backed up before and said he was unable to find the undeniable finish that had carried him to his previous feature wins.
"He felt the ground a touch," Boss said.

"He hasn't been in that situation of backing up before but he definitely felt the ground. He just wasn't explosive but [he was] very brave. He'll have a good break now and then come back bigger and stronger in the autumn."

Te Aroha stayer Back In Black's Melbourne Cup odyssey ended when he finished last in the Mackinnon.

Trainer John Steffert was unconcerned about the result after picking up A$20,000 for eighth prizemoney.

"We've come to Flemington for the first time and we're going home with some money," he said.

"Michael [Walker, jockey] just said he wasn't suited at weight-for-age. The plan is to stay for the Sandown Cup over two miles on the 17th and then I'll head home for Christmas."
"This is what owners dream about. They don't expect to win in Melbourne Cups and they don't expect to run in Melbourne Cups but if you can win Saturday races and Listed races and races like this I think it's every owner's dream. Whatever happens on Tuesday is a bonus."

Meanwhile, Kelinni's win robbed Cambridge Stud boss Sir Patrick Hogan of a second runner in the Cup.

''I thought he ran very well because we were a bit closer to the pace than we would have liked and you have a look at the first six in the race, the other five have all finished out the back and he was the only horse still there, only beaten a length and three-quarters.''

Koukash raced Munsef, who finished 12th in 2009 Melbourne Cup, and he said that experience had spurred him into finding a horse capable of winning the race.

''Every owner in the world dreams of having a runner in the Melbourne Cup. We achieved that three years ago when we brought Munsef down,'' he said.

''But when you come here and you experience having a runner in the Cup, you start having what I call the nightmare and you have to find a horse more than capable of winning.''

Koukash said Mount Athos was a horse that fitted that bill.

''We've got a major chance. For a Melbourne Cup, you need a horse that is capable of winning over a mile and a half [2400m], has got a turn of foot and stays the two miles - and we've got all of those three credentials covered with Mount Athos.

''He's got a great turn of foot and I think he will go very, very close.''

James McDonald
James McDonald