Battling the All Stars

By Matt Markham

It’s not so much a case of how to beat the All Stars in tonight’s New Zealand Derby but more a case of whether or not it’s even possible.

Such is the domination of the Rolleston stable in the three-year-old pacing ranks this season that it’s hard to see any of our feature pacing ranks for the age group falling to a horse who doesn’t wear the blue colours with the silver stars.

And while you’ll never get any trainer publicly admitting to the fact that they know they can’t win a race heading into it – let alone a race like the New Zealand Derby – you just get the feeling that rivals in the Derby are pulling their hair out.

“It’s hard to see how we can beat them to be fair,’’ rival trainer Cran Dalgety said.

“If it’s not one, there is another one sitting there ready to take its place.’’

Dalgety has Art Union engaged in the race who finished fifth of five in last week’s Flying Stakes.

“Things didn’t quite to plan there.

“We tried to make it interesting but it all went a little pear-shaped.

“And off the back of that it’s hard to see how things are going to improve.’’

In theory the race is one of two horses – Follow The Stars and Have Faith In Me both from Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s stable.

They produced the quinella last week in the Flying Stakes and did exactly the same in the Northern Derby the start before.

So far it’s advantage Have Faith In Me – but Follow The Stars has the inside barrier draw this week which puts the ball firmly in his court.

Purdon, who will drive Follow The Stars, was happy enough with what transpired last week.

“He’s gone very good, I was pleased with the way he found the line.

“But Have Faith In Me was very good too and he will again be the horse to beat.

“The extra distance will suit Follow The Stars though, I’ve got no doubt about that.’’

While all the attention is focussed on the glamour pairing of the race Brilliant Strike might just be the horse to slip under the guard.

The Graham and Paul Court trained son of Shadow Play has been the improver in the three-year-old ranks and has come up with the coveted barrier draw of one.

“That’s perfect,’’ Paul Court enthused when he learned of the draw.

An all and all out stayer, Brilliant Strike seems perfectly suited to the conditions of the Derby.

On paper he might not seem a realistic chance of winning the race, but when you break down his most recent performances comes right into contention.