Only one dead heat in NZ Derby in more than a century
In most people's eyes nothing much separates Akuta and Republican Party in the biggest race of them all on Grand Prix day at Addington on Sunday.
But in the 108 years the New Zealand Pacing Derby has been contested there has only ever been one dead heat.
That happened in 1954 when the pace-setting Single Medoro, trained and driven by Raymond Kennerley, was reeled in by "The Maestro" Maurice Holmes and Royal Minstrel. Over the last 100 metres Holmes extricated his horse from what at the time was described as a "seemingly hopeless position".
Trained by George Noble, Royal Minstrel was by leading sire U Scott while Single Medoro was one of the first crop of Medoro, an imported stallion from Italy.
The time for the one and a half mile journey in blustery conditions was 3:15.0
It was Kennerley's only winning drive in the race, though his father J J Kennerley won it twice in the 1920s.
For Holmes it was the ninth of his 12 Derby victories. His first was with Wrackler in 1928 and his last with Willie Win in 1972, 44 years later!
Holmes currently holds the record for the most wins, though Mark Purdon has 11 and will join him at the top of leaderboard if Akuta wins on Sunday. Purdon's last win was with Vincent in 2017.
Akuta is a $2 favourite on the TAB to win, with Republican Party and driver Blair Orange at $2.30. Last year Orange won his second Derby with Krug.
High profile winners of the Derby over the years have included Lordship (1961), Noodlum (1974), Master Musician (1991) and Courage Under Fire (1999).
The Group 1 $250,0000 Sunshine Stars New Zealand Derby is set to go at 3.44pm.