JOCKEY Michael Walker declared Main Stage as a legitimate Victoria Derby winning threat after the three-year-old rattled home down the outside to claim the UCI Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
Jumping from a wide barrier and not getting a race to suit, Walker had the $9 Crownbet hope towards the back of the field but, just as the second-placed Cliff’s Edge ($2.20 at William Hill) looked to have the field beaten, Main Stage powered to the line and found the front at the optimal time.
Johnny Vinko ($5.20 at Sportsbet) surprised at huge odds to round out the placings in a strongly run race.
Walker admitted not everything went to plan throughout the race, but was pleased to get the job done.
“Actually the plan was to go forward,” Walker said.
“He’s a playboy, he was playing around in the gates, I missed it, so I used my own initiative and rode him quiet.
“They were going quick enough.”
The jockey believes the tempo up front played right into his hands and he knew the race was within reach as the field entered the latter stages.
“He pulled me into the straight, then I let him go and my saddle slipped. It’s under his back legs but he’s a serious horse and bring on the Derby.”
Main Stage is the current $5 favourite at Ladbrokes to win the Victoria Derby on November 4.
The horse’s co-trainer Natalie Young agreed with Walker’s sentiments, describing the win as “very impressive”.
“Things went completely pear shaped, Michael didn’t panic though, he knows what sort of horse he was on … I didn’t know whether he was going to get up.
“In the last 200m I was kind of like ‘oh, I don’t know’ but he just really put his head down and he’s just a really good horse.”
The win was Main Stage’s second success from five attempts.
Young said the horse will take on the Caulfield Classic on Caulfield Cup day in just under a month’s time in preparation for the Derby, which has been the team’s long-term goal.
“We needed that sixth run going into it so that’s why we elected to go around today again, and he just rises with every run.
“I’m super proud of him.”
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