Habibi Rebounds to Win New Zealand Derby

Fillies took the top two spots in the New Zealand Derby (NZ-I) March 2 at Ellerslie, with Habibi winning by a half-length over Fix in a thrilling finish to rebound from the only stain on her otherwise perfect record.

Habibi raced midfield on the rail behind a strong tempo but had clear sailing on the home turn. She stormed on the outside in the stretch to overtake pacesetter Castlzeberg and three-time group II winner Fix, who tried to run with the winner but was outfooted. 

The 3-to-1 favorite ridden by Vinnie Colgan, Habibi was timed in 2:27.58 for 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) to win for the sixth time in seven lifetime starts. Colgan won the Derby for a record fifth time.

Castlzeberg, a group II-winning Castledale gelding, stayed on for third, a length back.

Perfect in five starts to begin her career, Habibi had too much ground to make up and finished a fast-closing third to Valbuena and Castlzeberg in the Avondale Guineas (NZ-II) at Ellerslie Feb. 17. Her record includes back-to-back group II wins in the Stella Artois Great Northern Guineas Dec. 26 and Sound Championship Stakes on New Year's Day, both at Ellerslie.

Habibi is trained by Donna and Dean Logan, who just missed winning the Derby in 1998, when El Duce finished second to So Casual.

The winning Ekraar filly was bred by co-owner Heather Crofskey, who told the 3News/NZN that the Derby win was "like being on top of Everest."

"I'm really proud to be part of this wonderful industry, and to think that little people like us can have a dream, set out for it, and achieve it," said Crofskey, who bred Habibi out of the winning Danasinga mare Danny Holiday.

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