Efficient Makes Defensive Play in Victoria Derby

Within minutes, the news switched from a grand Victoria Derby (Aus-I) win on Nov 4 as to whether Efficient would attempt to break a 65-year drought for 3-year-olds in the Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) three days later.

Given that junior horses rarely attempt the Cup, the ante Derby focus on a possible bid appeared to sideline what had just happened in the 153rd Derby. The immature Efficient won his Derby easily enough, by 2 1/4 lengths from Montjeu colt Gorky Park to justify his short quote of 11-8.

In winning his sixth straight race, from seven starts, Efficient snapped losing streaks in the $1.5 million (Australian funds) classic for his sire Zabeel and handler, Graeme Rogerson. He also headed an exacta for his damsire Defensive Play.

Zabeel, a grandson of Sir Ivor through his hugely influential sire Sir Tristram -- whom he succeeded at Cambridge Stud -- had yet to supply a winner of the Derby at Flemington. A trio of second placegetters in 11 generations had been an anomaly for the only stallion to defeat Danehill on the General list until last season, and he did it twice!

Rogerson had trained the Derby runner-up three times including the past two years, before reaching the winner's circle. Selected by his owner, Lloyd Williams, from the 2005 New Zealand Premier Yearling catalogue, the colt was purchased by the trainer for $220,000 (NZ-funds) from his New Zealand breeders, Graeme Hunt and Scott Williams (no relation).

Efficient is one of an impressive list of three Derby runners from daughters of Fappiano horse Defensive Play. In the case of the winner it is stakes-placed winner Refused the Dance.

For good measure he also sired the dam of the game runner-up Gorky Park (25-1). Another daughter foaled the seventh-placed Sirmione.

Currently at Woodstead Farm in the state of Washington, Defensive Play worked in New Zealand, mainly at Waikato Stud, for about ten years from 1993.

Anabaa colt Teranaba (30-1) held on for third a half length back. The Spring Champion (AustI) winner had supplied a pace which saw the 2,500 meters covered in 2:38.35 on a dead track that favored runners near the lead and near the rail.

Danever (10-1) fought on a half head away in fourth, the final generation Danehill colt from the David Hayes barn that also supplied Gorky Park.

Efficient also gave rider Michael Rodd his first Derby success, the result tempered by 10-meeting ban for hampering Delidio soon after the start.

Rodd followed the instruction of his owner to stay at the rail for as long as possible to the letter. After turning for home tenth of the 14 runners, he persevered well into the stretch before navigating his way around the three leaders.

And the colt did it with an ease which suggests greater heights are possible: he is still in his first preparation. It began with a controversial defeat when seventh against maidens on Aug 27. Craig Newitt was suspended for three months for not giving his mount every chance, later reduced to one.

By coincidence it was Newitt's Derby mount, Showify, which momentarily held up Efficient at the fourth bend, but then moved out as the winner went through on his inside. Showify (60-1) finished 12th.

Newitt will replace Rodd if Efficient attempts those greater heights very soon in the Melbourne Cup on Nov 7. Rodd previously booked for another Lloyd Williams-entry, Activation.