Runner by Runner: W.A.T.C. Derby

1. Zipaway (56.5kg)

Trainer: Neville Parnham
Jockey: Steven Parnham
Barrier: 2

Brings great intrigue and excitement to the Derby as he returns to Western Australia at the end of a three start campaign in Victoria. Since winning the WA Guineas in November and finishing a narrow third behind Dom To Shoot and Zaaki at Group One Level in the Northerly Stakes he has been to a Group Two Autumn Stakes (1400) at Caulfield when third, was beaten a margin at Flemington in the Group One Australian Guineas but covered a stack of additional ground and never got any cover, and then returned to form when third in the Group Two Alister Clark over 2040m at Moonee Valley. Flying from Sydney to Perth on the Monday and racing over 2400 in the Derby on the Saturday is a big ask but he’s a proven Group Performer and he’s the class runner of the field. In Neville we trust.

2. A Lot Of Good Men (56.5kg)

Trainer: Trevor Andrews
Jockey: Jarrod Noske
Barrier: 4

Has had a frustrating campaign for connections, however, with a change of gear (visors off), a change in rider (Noske on) and a step out in distance they finally got something to be excited about in the Melvista when charging home into second placing behind Buckets Ridge. He reeled off the fastest overall L1200, 1000, 800, 600, 400 & 200 of the race and the fastest L400 – 200 and L200 – Post individual furlong splits to dismiss any doubts about his staying credentials. All of a sudden he’s back in the conversation as a genuine contender in the $400,000 Group Two Feature. He’s deserving of a trophy in the cabinet after placing in the Fairetha (1400), WA Guineas (1600), Challenge (1500), Lex Piper (1600) and Melvista (2200).

3. Lord Vampi (56.5kg)

Trainer: Daniel & Ben  Pearce
Jockey: Lucy Fiore
Barrier: 18

Has enjoyed an excellent preparation: good thing beat first-up in a C1 1200, bounced back to win a 60+ 1400 second-up and then was given the ride of the month by Lucy Fiore early before unleashing a devastating turn of foot winning the JC Roberts (1800) by over a length. Stepped out to the 2200m of the Melvista Stakes a fortnight later and probably raced a little flat in review. Whether it was the fact he’d gone 1200 – 1400 – 1800 – 2200 in the space of only 6 weeks and he needed the run or whether he may not fully stay is a question that many punters will be pondering. He’s got the X-Factor to burst out of the pack and make a race of it and while he had the back of the winner in the Melvista he was only beaten 2.7L at the finish. Barrier hurts.

4. Autumn Rebel (56.5kg)

Trainer: Darren McAuliffe
Jockey: Joseph Azzopardi
Barrier: 1

Has been up for a long while. His first-up run was in a 3 year old 1400 at Belmont (yes Belmont) back in September 2023 and has raced every month since: 1 run in September, 1 run in October, 2 runs in November, 2 runs in December, 1 run in January, 1 run in February and 3 runs in March. Darren McAuliffe has kept him on the fresh side throughout the elongated campaign but he’s had to chase his tail a little in recent weeks after missing the run in the JC Roberts (16 March) with a near fore hoof abscess which then forced him into a 6 day back-up heading into the Melvista Stakes. All things considered he went alright in the Melvista and in replay his best 200 was his last 200 which is encouraging. Soft run three or four back the fence suits.

5. Buckets Ridge (56.5kg)

Trainer: Grant & Alana Williams
Jockey: William Pike
Barrier: 10

Firmed into All-In favouritism for the WATC Derby after a fast finishing fifth behind Russian To The Bar in the Lex Piper Stakes (1600) but then eased right back out after a lacklustre performance in the JC Roberts (1800) when beaten 8L. In the Melvista Stakes master trainers Grant & Alana Williams put a set of blinkers on, put William Pike on and the horse put on a staying exhibition with a powerful 1.6L victory from the three and four deep moving line. He was strong right through the line and considering his L200 was the second fastest of the race he looks like he’ll eat up the 2400. Will be understandably popular with a lot of punters and maps to get an identical run to last start.

6. Alaskan (56.5kg)

Trainer: Neville Parnham
Jockey: Chris Parnham
Barrier: 5

Beat the older horses in a 60+ Graduation over 1800m in early February to announce himself as a Derby contender and then left punters scratching their heads 28 days later when settling at the rear of the field and failing to make an impact as beaten favourite when 6.5L adrift of the winner. In review that race was just not run to suit anything that settled further back than first four in running and was a complete forgive. He justified that view in the JC Roberts (1800) when sitting three deep the trip and running a brave second behind Lord Vampi and then held his own when finishing fourth in the Melvista (2200). His full brother Alaskan God won the Derby in 2022 under Chris Parnham and he’s shown great versatility so far in his short career. Winkers go on for Derby Day.

7. In Good Order (56.5kg)

Trainer: Daniel Morton
Jockey: Brad Parnham
Barrier: 19

Has caught the eye recently with luckless runs in the JC Roberts (1800) and Melvista Stakes (2200). He finished third behind Bucket’s Ridge and A Lot Of Good Men last start but he had an interrupted run through heavy traffic at stages in the home straight when held up until the 200. Love the way he’s finding the line and have confidence that he’ll see out the 2400m of the Derby. Brad Parnham will be looking to keep him out of trouble early while they find their positions and then get him mobile in the three (four?) wide line so that he can wind up through his gears. Looks to be going as well as the other fancies but will go around at juicy double figures care of the horror barrier draw he’s been afforded. He’ll jump from 16 of 16 and will need a big ride from Brad Parnham.

8. Royal Tornado (56.5kg)

Trainer: Grant & Alana Williams
Jockey: Jason Whiting
Barrier: 14

Looks to be grinding a bit at the minute. He won a 1300m maiden at Northam and a C3 1700 at Belmont in his initial preparation in August/September 2023 and since returning has been thereabouts without threatening. His first-up run was excellent at Belmont off the back of a moderate tempo, and his run in the Lex Piper (1600) was very good as well, but judging him off his 66+ 1600 behind Knot Secret and more recently his 5.1L ninth in the Melvista Stakes behind the stablemate Buckets Ridge and many others that contest the 2024 WATC Derby you would think he needs to find a few lengths somehow to be competitive here.

9. Why Me (56.5kg)

Trainer: Steve Wolfe
Jockey: Shaun McGruddy
Barrier: 3

Only broke maiden status at Albany over 1600m three starts ago but it was his last start run over 1800m that will get you excited. Watching the replay he’s done an enormous job to only be beaten 1.8L in a race where he was stopped in his tracks turning for home. Had to restrain, change course, balance and come again after losing all his momentum at the top of the straight before savaging the line. Realistically the Bondi’s Future/Paigey’s Turn/Bandalera Beau form is not going to hold up in the WATC Derby but he looks like he’ll stay and it seems the colder they ride him the better he goes. All coming too soon for him by the looks but he’s worth following into the future.

10. Grand Reserve (56.5kg)

Trainer: Daniel Morton
Jockey: Holly Watson
Barrier: 9

Is a true blue one paced stayer. He broke maiden status at Ascot over 1800m when out grinding them and then suffered from cardiac arrythmia in the JC Roberts when being sent back to trials. Bounced back to his best in a 54+ beating the older horses as well as Simply with a determined front running display. He’ll look to roll forward and turn it into a genuine staying test but you just get the feeling that there is going to be a fair few who have the turn of foot to get past him in the home straight. Adds depth to the race but would need it to be a real slog to cause the upset.

11. Simply (56.5kg)

Trainer: Grant & Alana Williams
Jockey: Patrick Carbery
Barrier: 6

Has taken the alternative pathway to the WATC Derby as Grant & Alana Williams keep him away from Buckets Ridge and Royal Toronado until Grand Final Day. When he broke his maiden at Bunbury over 2038m he did beat home Rocking Society by 2.5L and since then he hasn’t been disgraced against the older horses finishing third in a 50+ and third in a 54+. However, third behind Savorski and Hieronymus Bosch and then third behind Grand Reserve and Hieronymus Bosch does not look like the form of a Derby winner. Blinkers went on last start and but he’ll need everything to go his way. Needs to turn the tables on Grand Reserve let alone the rest of the field.

12. Knockoneback (56.5kg)

Trainer: Ashley Maley
Jockey: Alan Kennedy
Barrier: 13

Will go around the despised roughie in the field – somewhere between 100-1 and 200-1 in fixed odds betting. He broke his maiden two starts back at Pinjarra over 1600m and then went to a Leg of the National Apprentice Race Series at Ascot (C3 1800) when getting up the inside late to grab third behind Do It Right and Sowar. This is a massive step up from a weak C3 at the mid-weeks to a Group 2 WATC Derby against his own age group and while he does look the kind of horse who will continue to grind it out he just doesn’t have the same level of acceleration as his opponents. Hard to see him figuring.

13. Rocking Society (56.5kg)

Trainer: Jason Miller
Jockey: Michael Poy
Barrier: 12

Blinkers went on in a lowly 2000m maiden at Pinjarra on 14 March and he beat up on weak opposition winning by almost 4L. Thrown straight into the deep end in the Melvista Stakes but did meet with support in betting at stages and ran a really honest fifth. He doesn’t have the same ‘wow factor’ as those in the market and doesn’t have anywhere near their point to point acceleration, however, he genuinely stays and he was coming again on the line over 2200m. Got caught really flat footed when Our Rocky Bay went for home and looked in a world of hurt, but once he worked through that flat spot he actually got going again late. 2400m will suit him and he’s a big winner of Our Rocky Bay heading to the paddock.

14. Own The Queen (54.5kg)

Trainer: Justine Erkelens
Jockey: Troy Turner
Barrier: 11

Has been the best of the fillies from start to finish throughout the entire series – winner of the Ascot 1000 Guineas (1800), winner of the Natasha Stakes (2200) and winner of the WA Oaks (2400). She went from a maiden to a Group 3 winner within the space of 100 days and the most incredible part of her progression is that this is really her first preparation of racing. She’s had a let-up in between but is still doing this on raw ability and talent. She’s a ripper, she’s the only horse in the race with a 2400m victory against her name and she can again be saved up for one late run at them. If she’s three and four deep on the back of a horse like Bucket’s Ridge you’d have to say it’s game on. Big respect for her.

15. Starating (54.5kg)

Trainer: Greg Kersley
Jockey: Jordan Turner
Barrier: 8

Ran third in the Ascot 1000 Guineas (1800) 2.17L adrift of Own The Queen, ran second in the Natasha Stakes (2200) 0.75L adrift of Own The Queen and then couldn’t go with them when the sprint went on in the WA Oaks when finishing 2.5L off Own The Queen, Miss Skyhigh and Flash Of Dallas. She’s been an honest campaigner throughout the fillies series but on each and every occasion Own The Queen has had her measure and at Set Weights it’s hard to see her turning the tables. She’ll come back bigger and better next prep.

16. Flash Of Dallas (54.5kg)

Trainer: Grant & Alana Williams
Jockey: Clint Johnston-Porter
Barrier: 16

Looked the X-Factor filly in the WA Oaks after a luckless run over 1600m at only her second career outing. Has gone from 1400 to 1600 to 2400 in the space of a month after making her debut on 25 February at Pinjarra and her run in the WA Oaks was so good that Clint Johnston-Porter has made the brave decision to jump ship off Autumn Rebel who he has partnered in both the Lex Piper and Melvista Stakes to keep the ride on Flash Of Dallas. Her last 200m was clearly her best 200 and they can now have the confidence to ride her like she’ll get the trip, rather than riding her for luck. This is another big ask for her but she’s got some staying ability that’s for sure.


In the end coming back to the fact that the last time we saw Zipaway in Western Australia he finished a head off Dom To Shoot and Zaaki at Group One Level over 1800. He has held his own with some of the best 3 year olds that Victoria has to offer at the minute and his run at Moonee Valley over 2040 in the Alister Clark Stakes was excellent. The big make or break element is whether Steve Parnham can get him to settle in the first 600m because he can get pulling. Fingers crossed he does because the best of Zipaway is very, very good. Massive respect for Own The Queen / Bucket’s Ridge off their wins in the WA Oaks and Melvista Stakes but Zipaway’s a proven A-Grader.

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