Graeme Rogerson eyes another Australian Derby

It is one of The Championships’ iconic races but the ATC Australian Derby has been an unhappy hunting ground for Sydney’s emerging young stayers.

Only three NSW-trained horses have won the classic in the past 15 years and no Sydney-based horse has been successful since Criterion in 2014.

Graeme Rogerson claimed the 1997 renewal with Ebony Grosve while training out of Randwick but this year he and wife Debbie will be chasing a win for the Kiwis with $3 race favourite Sharp ‘N’ Smart.

The New Zealand Derby winner lines up alongside the horses who filled the next three positions behind him in the Group 1 – Andalus, Full Of Sincerity and Mark Twain – the quartet all making the trip across the Tasman for Saturday’s $2 million race.

Rogerson believes the country’s current crop of three-year-olds, which also includes Australian Guineas winner Legato and last weekend’s brilliant Vinery Stud Stakes heroine Prowess, might be something special.

“New Zealand has certainly got a good lot of young horses,” Rogerson said.

“It was so hard to travel (during the COVID pandemic) and now it’s opening up and it’s quite easy. You can come over and run and go home.

“As four-year-olds, I think you’ll see some very good horses.

“Sharp ‘N’ Smart, when he learns to be a racehorse, he’s got a hell of a lot of ability. He runs times I’ve never had horses run.”

Sharp ‘N’ Smart is unbeaten in Sydney where he has claimed the Gloaming and Spring Champion Stakes, the latter despite being trapped wide in the run.

He may have to produce a similarly tough performance after drawing barrier 17 in the Australian Derby (2400m) but the unflappable Rogerson says his horse is up to the task.

“He can run times, he can sit three, four-wide and he doesn’t pull. You can ride him anywhere,” he said.

“Ryan Elliott rode him Saturday morning and reckons he has improved immensely since the (New Zealand) Derby and I couldn’t believe his trackwork here (Tuesday) morning.

“I think he’s just getting better.”

Rogerson is open to backing-up Sharp ‘N’ Smart in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) on day two of The Championships but says that will depend on the horse’s Derby performance, and how he comes through it.

One of racing’s great characters, the wily horseman has never shied away from a challenge and having trained horses the ilk of Savabeel, Efficient and Grand Archway, he believes Sharp ‘N’ Smart has the wares to be his next star.

“I’ve had some good horses. He’s got the potential to be a good horse, he’s just got to keep improving and learn how to be a racehorse,” Rogerson said.

Sharp ‘N’ Smart will be aiming to become the sixth New Zealand three-year-old to win the Australian Derby since 2008 and the first since Quick Thinker three years ago.

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