'Pie' Closes In On Australian Derby With Guineas Win

Of the dozen aspirants for the Australian Derby (Aus-I) to prep in the Rosehill Guineas (Aus-I) on March 24, the pair least likely on breeding were the first two home.

This AUS$500,000 traditional Derby lead-up, contested at 2,000 meters, contained a swag of male 3-year-old owners of pedigrees disposed to the Guineas distance — and to the 2,400 meters of the $2 million Derby to be decided on April 7.

So, how come the lone pair by sprint sires, the abysmally named He’s No Pie Eater and Ambitious General, led them all home?

It wasn’t a lack of speed, an even tempo bringing them home in 2:02.76. That it was 2.77 seconds wide of the race and track mark had mainly to do with a slightly rain-affected surface.

He’s No Pie Eater is by Canny Lad, a 2-year-old tyro by top sprinter Bletchingly. Canny Lad didn’t stay at 3, managing a mile success at grade II before heading to stud.

Ladies' Day, dam of the 97th Guineas winner, is a Canadian-bred daughter of Ascot Knight. She managed a win against maiden claimers over a mile of Woodbine.

Ascot Knight had a distant view of Reference Point’s wire-to-wire Derby (Eng-I) win under Steve Cauthen, but managed to win the listed Scottish Derby.

Ambitious General (9-1), luckless in finishing a half length second, is a more extreme case. His dad, General Nediym, was a gold-plated speed horse who had trouble winning beyond 1,200 meters.

Lake Lagoda, the dam of our live Derby chance, is an unraced mare by Military Plume, placed in two Derbys when Perth was allowed such largesse. Although a talented son of Sir Tristram, he wasn’t nearly one of his better stayers.

Second dam Flight of Fantasy was a slow offspring of Assert, the Be My Guest son to win the French (Fr-I) and Irish Derby (Ire-I).

There are stamina influences but you have to hunt for them.

The first pair home had shown some aptitude for staying before heading to Rosehill; He’s No Pie Eater with a close second to Teranaba (by Anabaa) in the Spring Champion Stakes (Aus-I), for 3-year-olds at 2,000 meters of Randwick on Oct 7.

Peter Moody brought Ambitious General from his hometown Melbourne after a solid success at Caulfield’s Autumn Classic (Aus-II). The 1,800-meter win was his first attempt beyond a mile.

Fresh from his somewhat lucky defeat of the older horses headed by Desert War at 80-1 in the Chipping Norton Stakes (Aus-I) at his first fall outing, He’s No Pie Eater started at 7-1 in the Guineas. It was the Jennifer Mackay-bred colt’s 15th start and fifth win, for $666,500.

Hugh Bowman always had the late Bruce Reid’s $140,000 yearling purchase in the first four and before taking charge from Gorky Park 300 meters out. Trainer Graeme Rogerson believes that Pie can win the Derby.

There will be more serious opposition at Randwick for the Derby, but Pie’s ‘triumph’ in England’s Grand National Steeplechase for Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet taught us never to underestimate a horse with Pie in his moniker, no matter how silly.

Being referred to in antiquated Australian slang as a pie-eater is not complimentary. It was a class put-down. The reverse is intended for this colt, his name all the work of his deceased owner.

Ambitious General’s fast-closing second, after striking traffic problems at the last bend for Damien Oliver, also places him squarely in the Derby mix.

Fiumicino (13-2) finished strongly, beaten a half-length and a long neck for his third, to head those bred along more classic lines. He is by top New Zealand’s top stallion, Zabeel, from a daughter of another former Cambridge Stud resident, the deceased Maroof.

Fiumicino will be bidding to give his sire a Derby double. The currently benched Efficient won the Victoria Derby (Aus-I) in November from Gorky Park and Teranaba.

Gorky Park, one of three sons of Montjeu in the Guineas, just missed third after working near or in the lead throughout. He and the fifth-placed Sir James, who raced wide all the way just off lead, must be also conceded chances at Randwick.

There were excuses for Teranaba, the 11-4 elect, but he could only beat one home after being cramped up near the turn.

Some of the above-named males might instead challenge their elders in the $2 million Tancred Stakes (Aus-I) at Rosehill next Saturday.

They could be influenced by the filly factor in the Derby.

Last November’s Victoria Oaks (Aus-I) 1-2, Miss Finland and Tuesday Joy clash in the Storm Queen Stakes (Aus-I) at Rosehill on March 31.

Expect one or both to challenge the males in the Derby. They will likely dominate Derby betting if that path is chosen ahead of the Oaks (Aus-I) on April 11.

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