Tough draw for Sugar Me

Cran Dalgety deserved more luck after daring to bring the emerging Sugar Me across for the Victoria Derby.

But now it’s really just about trying to qualify for the final after Sugar Me drew the worst possible barrier (13) in the third of the three Derby heats at Bendigo on Saturday night.

There’s a bit of depth in the heat, too. Last week’s superb Kilmore winner Act Now will be favourite from gate nine, NSW Derby winner Patsbeachstorm has barrier 12, while the likes of Sebs Choice (two), Longfellow (six), One Two Many (seven), Rock N Roll Doo (eight) and Better Eclipse (11) have also shown plenty of talent.

Given the three heats, Sugar Me, who will be driven by Chris Alford, will need a top-three finish to be assured of a berth in the $200,000 Derby final on Saturday week.

There’s plenty of Kiwi interest in the first Derby heat where American Dealer is favourite despite gate 11 against exciting local Bondi Lockdown (10).

Trainer Nathan Purdon is sure American Dealer will derive benefit from his first run for the stable, when a first-up third to Act Now at Kilmore last Friday night.

“I took there with room to improve because I was mindful he had three runs in as many weeks,” he said. “When you look at the times Act Now ran home in, you couldn’t really ask much more of American Dealer.

“He’ll be better this week and the longer (2650m) trip will suit him more, too.”

Co-trainer Clayton Tonkin rates Major Moth as he and Emma Stewart’s best hope in the Derby series. He’s a hot favourite to win heat two from gate three.

“He’s got some X-factor about him and he’ll just keep getting better and better and his long spell,” he said.

Tonkin and Stewart have seven runners across the two Victoria Oaks heats on Saturday night and look set to dominate the final.

Prepost final favourite Ladies In Red should make it 12 wins from 13 starts from gate five in the second heat.

In the first heat, Tonkin thinks Beach Music (two) has the draw to really test or even beat star stablemate Tough Tilly (eight, inside back row).

“Ladies In Red has to be our best hope, but we know how good Tough Tilly and she’ll improve a stack from her first-up run. Then there’s Beach Music and Joanna, who are good enough to upset our big two if they got the right draws and luck in the final,” Tonkin said.

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