At Flemington Nov. 3, home of the $5 million Melbourne Cup next Tuesday, a New Zealand bred 3-year-old gelding named Kibbutz became an instant crowd favorite with his devastating win in the Aus$1.5million group I AAMI Victoria Derby over 12 1/2 furlongs.
It was a win of sheer staying class and he is now an emerging staying superstar.
"Just outstanding, workmanlike effort," said his rider, Craig Williams, who continually punched the air with excitement. "He just wants to look around all the way down the straight but he has such an ability to settle beautifully in his run and it was his manners that helped him win this."
Kibbutz (Golan--Misskap) began his racing career in New Zealand when placing in a low key maiden. Most Kiwi owners are interested in selling and Terry Henderson, who raced former Melbourne (Aust-I) and Caulfield Cup (Aust-I) winner Doriemus, phoned Simon O’Donnell when he learned the horse was for sale.
O’Donnell, who is always on the lookout for quality overseas bred stayers, didn’t need much talking into the deal and agreed. Henderson then phoned trainer David Hayes and asked him, too, but Hayes was at a wedding on the day. "I told him that I was very busy and couldn’t talk long but he kept raving on about the horse so I said, ‘OK, I’ll buy half.’ I did it purely to get him off the phone," smiled Hayes, who then immediately asked his racing manager, Mark Pilkington, to sell off his percentage.
A few months later and Kibbutz started to show great form. Hayes, one morning at track work, turned to Pilkington and asked him how much of the horse he still owned. "He was starting to do very good things on the track so I asked Pilko who said I owned zero. He had completely sold down my share."
Last start the champion trainer put stable jockey Williams on the horse’s back in the group II AAMI Vase over 10 furlongs at Moonee Valley and he rattled home from well back for second to the smart Marching. "I told David after that race that this was his Derby horse. He just kept getting better every day after that."
And so it worked out.
Williams had the big stayer settled and sleeping just worse than midfield throughout in the field of 11. He was the only horse traveling with his head on his chest. "After they had gone four furlongs I knew I didn’t want to swap him for any other horse," said Hayes.
Kibbutz stormed clear with a furlong to go after race favorite Marching (Commands--Step) had gone to the lead with two furlongs to travel. "He ran a super race even though the pace was farcical, but he was beaten by two better stayers," said Marching’s rider, Damien Oliver. Second home was lightly raced Littorio (Bellotto--Our Centasea) ridden by Dan Nikolic.
"Super run. I was held up slightly in the straight and wouldn’t have beaten the winner, but he’ll be around here this time next year for the Melbourne Cup. He’s a very smart young stayer on the rise."
Littoria came from near where Kibbutz was upon straightening, but just did not accelerate like the winner did.
Simon O’Donnell said in his acceptance speech that, "people think racing is all about money. But it isn’t. It is about experiencing this feeling of winning a big race and I can assure you there aren’t too many experiences better than this."
Kibbutz was winning his third race from just six starts and his purse money now is Aus$979,900.
"I’m glad for Terry (Henderson) and Simon (O’Donnell) that they bought the horse," mused trainer Hayes, who will keep Pilkington on as his racing manager.