The Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained Pinarello (NZ) (Tavistock) ran out a worthy winner of the Gr.1 Queensland Derby (2400m) after staving off the late challenge of Paternal under an inspired Leith Innes ride.
The son of Tavistock jumped from barrier 17 in the 18-horse Classic, yet Innes had him one-off the fence passing the winning post for the first time and the promising young stayer did the rest.
Pinarello had gone five weeks since winning the Gr.2 Championship Stakes (2100m) at Pukekohe, with his Cambridge-based conditioners electing to skip the traditional lead-up, the Gr.3 Rough Habit Plate (2143m), due to the extremely heavy nature of the track.
The missed run mattered not as the Cambridge Stud bred and raced galloper led home a New Zealand bred clean-sweep, with the NZ suffix filling the first five placings in the Derby.
Roger James notched Group One win number 31, his sixth in Australia, while for training partner Robert Wellwood, who has combined with James since 2018, it marked elite level win number three.
“It was an inspired ride. I felt we could win it with the right ride and we got the right ride,” an emotional Roger James said.
“I thought it was of benefit, to be honest, to have missed the Rough Habit Plate, where I thought we were going to run on an inevitably bad track.
“He has been a weak, frail horse this whole preparation. He’d been seven weeks prior to his last win (in the Championship Stakes) and that was quite spectacular that day. I thought ‘we can find a better way to the Derby’.”
The emerging stayer had finished fifth in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) won by Asterix (NZ) (Tavistock) in early March and a fortuitous inconvenience resulted in the Australian campaign.
“He was actually going to go home and spell after the New Zealand Derby,” James said.
“Fortunately it was Karaka sales week and we couldn’t get a float. After a week at home I thought, ‘holy hell this horse has come through it well’ and I decided to keep him in and here is the result.
“I’ve run second and third in this Derby previously. I’ve been placed in Sydney Derbys as well and I’ve won five in New Zealand. To win one in Australia is pretty special.”
The retained rider for Brendan and Jo Lindsay’s Cambridge Stud, Innes has previously enjoyed elite level success in Queensland having ridden Beaten Up (Beat Hollow) to victory in the Gr.1 Doomben Cup (2000m) and Provocative in the Gr.1 Queensland Oaks (2400m).
“I’ve been pretty lucky, I got in with a round to go. I had to make my run a little bit earlier than I wanted as there were a couple of slow ones in front of me and he was a sitting duck for a long time,” Innes said.
“To Roger’s credit, he had him fit and we never lost faith in the horse, even though he didn’t race here two weeks ago, it might be a blessing in disguise.
“He is still a little bit weak but he is going to be a nice horse as a four and five year old.”
44-year-old Innes, who has tasted Group One glory on 31 occasions, including feature wins aboard the likes of Starcraft, Ocean Park, Kawi and Sacred Falls, shortly after the race dropped the bombshell that he has retired after the 11 out of 10 ride.
“I told my wife first and then told Brendan Lindsay that that is it,” he said.
“I have had a pretty good career, so to come out and win a Group One race, especially the Derby over here after basing myself in Queensland for five weeks, and while you don’t want to believe in fairy tales, it has happened and I have made the decision.
“Pinarello could be a really nice Caulfield Cup horse either next season or the year after, but that is me, I am more than happy to bow out today.
“I just can’t find a better scenario than to go out a winner and winning a Derby.
Innes, who has worked overtime to keep his competitive riding weight in-check said he will consider his future and whether it has some involvement in racing.
“I am going to sit back and chill out for a couple of weeks. I certainly won’t be using the hot baths three times a week,” he said.
“I love racing and racing has been good to me, so we will just play it by ear.”
A half-brother to stakes winners Bavella (Snitzel) and Vernazza (NZ) (More Than Ready), Pinarello is out of the Zabeel mare Zonza (NZ), who won the Gr.3 Ladies’ Day Vase (1600m) at Caulfield for James.
Pinarello is one of 13 stakes winners bred on the Tavistock – Zabeel cross, with Derby winners including Werther (NZ) (Hong Kong Derby), Tarzino (NZ) (Victoria Derby) and Johnny Get Angry (NZ) (Victoria Derby), while Toffee Tongue (NZ), also bred on the magic cross was a Gr.1 Australasian Oaks (2000m) winner.
Pinarello is the ninth Group One winner for his late sire Tavistock and has now won four of his seven starts and A$719,962 in prizemoney.
Savabeel gelding Paternal (NZ) was a game runner-up, while Camboche (NZ) (Vadamos) just got the better of the Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained Dark Destroyer (NZ) (Proisir), who was close-up in fourth. – NZ Racing Desk