Xcellent Rushes Home for New Zealand Derby Win

Pentire son Xcellent rushed home for a stunning win in the 131st New Zealand Derby (NZ-I).

In his third outing, Xcellent gave the other 17 runners experience and most a start into the final 400 meters of the 2,400 meters around Auckland's Ellerslie oval. The muddling tempo added to the difficulty. The uneven speed and a slightly rain-affected surface contributed to the slowish 2:32.01 for the $500,000 (NZ-funds) premier event.

Mandela, a son of Australian Derby (Aust-I) winner Ebony Grosve, appeared likey to fulfill his destiny when he overpowered the favorite Cheval De Troy (by Zabeel) as the wire loomed. But the third choice had no answer to the late surge by the 6-1 second favorite, the final margin a surprising 1 1/4 lengths. A half head separated Mandela and longshot King Johnny (Seasoned Star), his late run allowing him to eclipse Cheval De Troy for third.

Xcellent provided back-to-back wins in New Zealand's premier classic for the Matamata training combination of Mike Moroney and Andrew Scott, jockey Michael Coleman, and Moroney's agent brother, Paul. The 2003 New Zealand Derby winner Cut the Cake was bred and syndicated by Paul Moroney and he steered 20 into the Gimblett Family Trust-bred Xcellent after buying him for $45,000 at the New Zealand premier sale. Mike Moroney also prepared 1997 Derby winner Great Command and won the 2000 Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) with another of Paul's purchases, Brew -- a son of Japan Cup heroine Horlicks.

The Derby might be shifted from the traditional Boxing Day slot to March in 2006 and the brothers might have wished they had moved it earlier as the late November second foal from Excelo appeared too immature, despite two wins from as many starts before his unofficial third birthday. But he rose to the occasion despite a training setback and has his crew thinking Australian Derby and W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I).

Pentire has shuttled for eight seasons, his New Zealand base Rich Hill Stud, by arrangement with Shadai Farm. The 1996 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (Eng-I) winner relocated to Gestut Isarland in Germany in 2004 as part of a two-lease deal with Shadai. Pentire sired South Australian Derby (Aust-I) winner Pantani, his best southern runner Pentastic.