Eremein Takes Australian Derby

Eremein's Australian Derby (Aust-I) victory confirmed he is indeed "the one" for his sire--as in even less than successful stallions can "get one good, even a great one."

Even the most ardent fans of Eremein, led by breeder/owners Geoff and Beryl White, would concede the Timber Country son is not great, not yet at least. He would not rank high on the list of 143 winners of Randwick's Derby--headed by Phar Lap.

Eremein is also very much a lone star from Woodman & Sons in Australia. But he certainly got the job done for jockey Corey Brown and trainer Alan Denham March 26. Denham's father, Jack, prepared the 2000 Derby winner Fairway, and champion Might and Power. The victory comes six months after Eremein suffered a severe bout of colic. His toughness isn't in question.

Brown gave the 4-1 second favorite the best journey of the 12 entrants over the 2,400 meters, parking him fourth with cover. It was just as well Eremein gained the run of the race as he only had a neck to spare over Stella Grande at the wire.

Darren Beadman gave Stella Grande (15-2) every chance to run the winner down in the final 200 meters. A track bordering on heavy made for a slow pace and little hope for back-runners. The 2:35.83 was almost :7.5 outside Octagonal's race mark.

The Lee Freedman-prepared runner-up was bidding to supply Marquetry with his first southern group I success. Now rostered at Hill 'n' Dale Farms, Marquetry shuttled in 2000 when with Vinery. But after covering just 43 mares, he didn't return. Stella Grande provided Marquetry's first group success from 32 southern foals in winning Derby prep, the Tulloch Stakes (Aust-III) March 19.

Railings, a 100-1 shot by top New Zealand sire Zabeel, tried to defy the racing pattern, sustaining a strong run from eighth into the last 400 meters to press the first pair. He came within a neck and a nose of bringing off the biggest upset in Derby history.

Xcellent was a 15-8 elect to become the first since Bonecrusher 19 years earlier to collect the New Zealand (NZ-I) and Australian Derbys. The track did not play for the previously unbeaten Pentire son, but he never raised the hopes of his fans, beaten 10 lengths in eighth.

The Whites have bred and raced some top gallopers, their first Derby winner, after some near misses, is the second foal from Marrego, a stakes-placed daughter of their champion track and stud performer Marscay. The gelding from a string of sprinting mares has been first or second at 10 of 12 starts, his six wins earning him more than $1.8 million.

Notable Derby absentees included Plastered and Savabeel, one-two in the Victoria Derby (Aust-I) last November. On Derby day, Plastered won the Melvista Stakes- (Aust-L) over 2,200 meters in his hometown Perth.

Eremein is the one for Timber Country in the South. He showed that in winning the $500,000 (Australian funds) Rosehill Guineas (Aust-I) March 12 and booted it home in taking $2 million Derby to become his sire's second group I winner outside Japan: the first was United Arab Emirates conceived Balletto in the Frizette (gr. I). The son of Woodman-Fall Aspen by Pretense, has sired grade I winners Admire Don and Mugamanchu in Japan, where he is rostered at Shadai's second-string farm, Lex Stud.

Timber Country was a flop in Australia, as was another Lex-based Woodman son Hector Protector and, it must be said, their sire.

Woodman has 100 stakes winners globally, but his five crops at Coolmore-Australia have yielded just nine or 2.1% of 422 southern foals, the youngest now two. They include three to succeed at graded level at home and Timber Trader in the South African Derby (SAf-I).

Eremein is from the last of Timber Country's three generations from Arrowfield. The only other stakes/group winner from the other 185 foals came from the second crop; Timborina won a Wakeful (Aust-II), and was second in the Victoria Oaks (Aust-I). The Preakness (gr.I) winner's SW to runners ratio of 1.1% is backed, if that's the word, by a WTR figure of just 25.9%.

Hector Protector, a Woodman 5-time gr.I winner on grass in France, also failed. But he gained a 5.25% mark with four stakeswinners, three graded, from just 76 foals in two crops at Widden in 1997-8.

In the midst of those, Vinery installed a Woodman, Way of Light, in 2000. The Japan shuttler's lack of a stakeswinner from his first two Australian crops has seen the Gran Criterium (Fr-I) winner dropped from a high of 90 covers at his first season to 63 in his fifth in 2004. Six winners from 25 runners last season contained just one stakes-placed horse and there has not been another this season, from 53 runners.