By Duane Ranger
Saturday night’s 2019 Redcliffe Derby is one of the strongest field of three-year-old pacers seen for many a year at Redcliffe Paceway.
That’s the opinion of someone who knows. For 35 years Mark McNee has trained horses out of his Redcliffe home town.
The 52-year-old has watched many Derbies, local and out of State, and believes his Bettors Delight gelding, Lifes Black, has as a good a winning chance as any of the 10 starters in the 2040m mobile.
“It’s a very even field. It’s going to be difficult for Nathan (Dawson) from the second widest front row draw (5). We will need some luck. There's a couple inside us who have real gate speed so it's not going to be an easy task," McNee said.
"If we had drawn one or seven then we might have been one of the favourites, that’s how even it is."
He was referring to Dazzle Me (3) and Regulus (2), who are $3 and $4 favourites respectively. Lifes Black was quoted at $11 on Thursday. The highly fancied Trojan Banner, who drew four, has been scratched.
“It’s not like last year when Colt Thirty One was the standout horse and he was expected to win. This year there are several good winning chances. It’s one of the strongest Derby fields I’ve seen in a while,” McNee stressed.
He said Lifes Black was starting to hit peak form.
“He did a lot of work early when finishing second at Redcliffe last start. He’s come through that race well and on Wednesday he felt as good as what he did the week leading into QBRED 3yo Triad Final (April 13) at Albion Park,” McNee said.
Lifes Black, who drew eight in that Group Two feature, and was beaten a head by First String. Ironically the McNee trainee was paying $11 to win that night as well.
“He’s a nice little horse but he’s still got some catching up to do on Dazzle Me, who has been taking on the open classers. As for Regulus, well he’s been staying with me and he’s just got better with each run. He’s really starting to blossom,” McNee said.
Lifes Black is owned and was bred by Paul Galvin and Steve Mauger. Just on a year ago McNee told the former that he would have a Derby horse this season.
"He's won five races (placed 10 times - $42,669) and I knew last season that he had what it took to make a Derby field. I cheekily told Paul that. I'd love to see him win it, but just having a starter in our local Derby is quite a thrill," McNee said.
"He's only had 22 starts. I got him as a 'last-chance-cast-off', but since his debut (Redcliffe May 2018) he's just got stronger and is developing into a really nice racehorse."
McNee has never won a Derby, but did win the 2003 Gold Coast Oaks with Miss Galvinator.
“Lifes Black is as good as any young horse that I’ve had, and even though he’s small, he has such a strong will to win. He’s had excuses when he hasn’t returned a cheque," McNee, the full-time farrier said.
“I’m working five on the Redcliffe track at the moment and he’s easily the best of them."
Dazzle Me and Regulus aside, the only other starter quoted in single figure odds on opening was the Mark Jones and Aaron Goadsby trained Barrett (9), who will be driven by Narissa McMullen.
Barrett was a classy passing lane winner when having his first look at Albion Park last week. He drew one that night and paced a 1:52.7 mile rate.
The Bettor's Delight colt, who follows out the favourite Dazzle Me, opened third in the line of betting at $5.50.