Savvy strengthens Derby claims

He had to wait a year longer than most expected, but James McDonald finally got to celebrate Mitchelton Wines Vase victory aboard an odds-on favourite.

The whiz kid Kiwi jockey combined with John O’Shea’s quality staying three-year-old Savvy Nature to win the $220,000 Group 2.

It went some way to atoning for last year, when McDonald was beaten aboard $1.30 favourite It’s A Dundeel in the Vase.

Savvy Nature – the $1.80 favourite – settled back, as It’s A Dundeel did when unable to reel in Super Cool, but he was equal to the task despite never appearing at home on the tight Moonee Valley track.

“He did a lot wrong, he hung quite bad and he really didn’t get around the course very well,” McDonald reported.

“I thought it was déjà vu all over again with Dundeel as a three-year-old. But lucky I was on a horse good enough to get away with it.”

Savvy Nature unleashed a brilliant burst from the 600m to come from the rear and round up his rivals by early in the straight.

The further they went up the short Moonee Valley straight, the further son of Savabeel strode away from his rivals and held a three-length margin over runner-up $201 outsider All Rigged Up. Pinstripe Lane ($17) was three-quarters-of-a-length back third.

O’Shea said it was the perfect way to tune up for next week’s $1.5 million AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m), for which he is the $4 second favourite. Complacent, Savvy Nature’s conqueror in the Gloaming Stakes and Spring Champion Stakes at his previous two starts, is the $3.60 top pick.

“We’ve ticked a box today,” O’Shea said. “He goes into the Derby off a positive run and he had a good blow out. We’re in there with a chance.

“I think the best thing for him is the back up. He’s a big, gross horse but he’s got a good turn of foot and he relaxed beautifully.”

The Vase victory was special for Savvy Nature’s owner Max Whitby, who was a part-owner of Savvy Nature’s sire Savabeel, who won the Cox Plate on this day nine years ago

Story by Brad Bishop