They had to settle for second place with Harris Tweed in the BMW Caulfield Cup, but Murray and Bjorn Baker got their spring feature when Lion Tamer destroyed his rivals in Saturday’s $1.5 million AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington.
The Kiwi father and son training combination celebrated becoming the first official training partnership to win Australia’s oldest Classic when their underrated colt relished the wet conditions.
Bjorn Baker said it was the realisation of a long-held dream for his father. “I remember asking my father as a child, I said ‘what race do you want to win the most?’ and he said the VRC Derby,” Baker said. “So it’s very special to come here and win that.”
The Bakers’ son of Storming Home treated the dedicated crowd of 90,361 to one of the most dominant displays seen in the race that was first run in 1855, coasting home by six-and-a-half lengths.
While he was five wide heading out of the straight from barrier 14 at the tricky 2500m start, top Sydney jockey Hugh Bowman had attained the spot outside leader Almindoro within 300m.
Bowman sat there until around 600m from home when moved alongside Almindoro before giving Lion Tamer his head early in the straight.
He responded by shooting five lengths clear by the 200m, a margin he extended over the final furlong.
Praecido ($18) flashed home from the rear to grab second, just in advance of $4 second favourite Retrieve with Digital Fortress ($7.50) a length back in fourth spot.
Rekindled Interest ($3.80 fav) enjoyed a lovely run one off the fence but failed to come on in the straight.
Bowman was blown away by how effortlessly Lion Tamer, who ran second to Rekindled Interest in last week’s AAMI Vase, notched the fifth win of his 11-start career.
“I couldn’t believe it when I put five on them,” he said. “At the 600 I was just breaking his jaw trying to hold him and I thought we’d had it pretty easy and I knew he’d stick so I let him go and I just couldn’t believe it.”