New Zealand Derby hero Xcellent underscored his Australian Derby chances by routing older horses in the Darley-sponsored New Century Stakes (NZ-I) in Auckland March 5.
Over 2,000 meters of the Ellerslie 2,400 meters where he won the Derby (NZ-I) Dec. 26 in his previous start, the talented Pentire son easily accounted for six rivals headed by 2002 NZ Derby winner St Reims (Zabeel). He won by 1 3/4 lengths in 2:1.45. Another group I winner, Australian-bred mare Lashed, was third another half-length away.
Xcellent was a 6-4 favorite to make it four wins from as many starts, despite facing older horses for the first time. This was a test passed with flying colors.
A $45,000 (NZ funds) yearling purchased by Paul Moroney at the 2003 New Zealand premier sale, Xcellent is prepared for a syndicate by his brother Mike Moroney and Andrew Scott.
No 3-year-old has won both the New Zealand and Australian Derbys since champion Bonecrusher 19 years ago. Worth $2 million (Australian funds), the Derby at Randwick will be contested March 26.
The other strong New Zealand chance in the Derby is Cheval De Troy. The Zabeel colt will contest the $500,000 Rosehill Guineas (Aust-I) March 12 and was a luckless third in the Canterbury Guineas (Aust-I) in his Australian debut.