Day At The Track

Orange confident with Sheriff

08:59 AM 06 Apr 2018 NZST
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Sheriff,Harness racing
The Nigel McGrath trained Sheriff
Photo Bruce Stewart

Blair Orange knows all about beating the seemingly unbeatable.

He is doing it right now, day by day, as he continues on his surprising path to the national driver’s premiership, downing perennial champion Dexter Dunn.

Barring injury, a huge suspension or a freakish Dunn performance between now and  August 1, Orange will beat the man who has won the last 10 premierships.

But at Addington tonight he has to do something even tougher. He has to try and beat the All Stars in a Derby.

Like the premiership, Orange thinks he can do just that with Sheriff and like the premiership he knows it won’t be easy.

Sheriff has a second line draw and four All Stars runners, headlined by Anthem and Sicario, to contend with in the $200,000 New Zealand Derby.

Nobody knows more than Orange how hard it is to beat the legendary stable in the Derby, after all it was working for the All Stars that he made his name.

“I think we can win, because they are beatable. Everybody is beatable,” says Orange.  

“But I also know how good Mark and Nat are at what they do, how ready the horses will be.

 “And they have numbers of their side. We might be good enough to beat three of theirs but you have to beat all four.

 “But I think Sheriff is as good as their ones, especially with Chase Auckland out.”

 On paper it appears Sheriff has slightly the better draw of the three favourites as he follows out a fast beginner in Pat’s Delight but Orange says that means little.

 “You look at these races and think who you are following out matters but it very rarely does,” he says.

 “If I try and punch through behind it at the start then I am probably three wide on a hot pace for the first 800m and I think they will go very hard.

 “So I don’t see that happening but what it does mean is I might be able to settle in front of Sicario and Anthem and that could help.”

 The reality of the Derby is all three favourites are likely to settle in the second half of the field, not a bad thing with a likely hot tempo, then move together and the one who ends up in the one-one with 1000m to go becomes the one to beat.

 “That sort of luck will play a huge role but this is a horse who can win a Derby so we have our chance.”

 While so many Derbys in the modern era are won by horses on the marker pegs saving valuable ground tonight’s 2600m mobile could be an exception, with Sicario and Anthem such good stayers, but the race looms as one of the more competitive classics in years.
 It it matched by the Trotting Derby where the northern stable of John and Josh Dickie have a strong two-horse punch in Girls On Film and Paramount King, with backing both not the worst play.

 The Dickies have another group one shot with Speeding Spur, who is the horse to beat in the $100,000 Trotting Champs on form and with the best draw.


Michael Guerin

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