Almanzor delivers first-crop Derby triumph

By Richard Edmunds

2 Nov 2022

Almanzor delivers first-crop Derby triumphManzoice claims an all-important classic win for his sire Almanzor in the Victoria Derby.

Almanzor’s all-important second season hit a high note at Flemington on Saturday with a Gr. 1 Victoria Derby winner from his very first crop of spring three-year-olds.
The Chris Waller-trained Manzoice – who was born in Australia but bred by Blenheim’s Stephanie Hole – finished over the top of gallant Kiwi star Sharp ’N’ Smart to win the 2500-metre classic by half a length.
Siring the winner of the time-honoured classic is a dream start to the sophomore season for Almanzor, the triple Group One winner who shuttles to Cambridge Stud. Having already been crowned New Zealand’s leading first-season sire of 2021-22 – and overall champion sire of two-year-olds – he now heads the second-season standings on both sides of the Tasman.
“It was an outstanding result,” Cambridge Stud CEO Henry Plumptre told RaceForm. “We probably went into Saturday hoping rather than expecting anything, but the trainer and the jockey really did us a great service.
“What a masterful training performance by Chris Waller. The horse was backing up from the Spring Champion Stakes into the Derby a week later, and even though the market didn’t see him as the winner, you can always rely on Chris to have horses at their absolute peak for their grand finals.
“And then it was a great ride by Mick Dee, who rides a lot of horses for us in Melbourne and has done a wonderful job. He’s also got a great association with our mare Excelida, winning the Gr. 2 Rose Of Kingston Stakes and placing in the Gr. 1 Empire Rose Stakes on Saturday as well. With great contributions from both of them, it all came together in the Derby.”
Almanzor has been enthusiastically received by Kiwi breeders since beginning his annual visits to our shores, serving almost 600 mares across his first four New Zealand seasons and well into another limit book this spring.
His first crop has so far produced 13 winners from 37 runners. Manzoice became the second stakes winner, joining last season’s Karaka Million hero and Group One-placed Dynastic, while another three have placed at black-type level – Andalus in New Zealand, and Virtuous Circle and King’s Crossing in Australia.
“We’ve just been hoping to see the Almanzors step up, and that’s what we got on Saturday,” Plumptre said. “Often a sire will start off with a hiss and a roar, like Almanzor did with Dynastic last season, and then they can hit a flat spot for one reason or another.
“Until Saturday, the spring had produced a series of colts or geldings in Australia that put their hands up as very promising horses, but didn’t quite carry on with it. But Chris and his team often told us how much they liked Manzoice – he was always an outstanding type with very good ability.
“Charlie Duckworth (assistant trainer) made an interesting comment on Saturday that Manzoice and the other Almanzors in their stable are great physicals but a little bit behind mentally. That’s consistent with a lot of feedback we’ve been getting from other stables as well.
“A lot of his progeny have good ability but are just taking a bit of time to put things together. They’re also giving the impression that they’ll stay 2000 metres and beyond, which is in keeping with Almanzor’s pedigree and his own racing career.”
The team at Cambridge now turn their attention to Riccarton on Saturday, where Dynastic will line up in the Gr. 1 Al Basti Equiworld 2000 Guineas and attempt to complete an extraordinary week for his sire.
“That would be the icing on the cake,” Plumptre said. “He’s another one that’s probably three to six months away mentally.
“He’s given Mark Walker a few anxious moments this spring, particularly with his inexplicable failure as a hot favourite at Matamata two starts ago. But the best trainers can turn things around, and with a few gear changes, Dynastic produced a much-improved performance at Te Rapa. He got well back, but made up all the ground he could in the straight.
“If you look at how well Lickety Split has performed in Melbourne this spring, and then consider that Dynastic was within a nose of her in the Group One at Ellerslie in March, it’s good form for this weekend. We believe he can be very competitive.”
Almanzor’s quality 2022 book includes Group One-winning Savabeel mares Probabeel and Amarelinha.
“I won’t lie – it’s been harder work filling his book this year,” Plumptre said. “We’ve raised his fee of course, and it’s also a reflection that half a dozen young New Zealand stallions have really stepped up in impressive style.
“Horses like Tarzino, Proisir and Satono Aladdin have produced quality performers on both sides of the Tasman, which is fantastic for the industry here and makes for a more competitive environment.
“But he’s served another full book of 140 mares, and we’re backing him with some of our very best. Probabeel has tested in foal to him at 42 days, Amarelinha is at 28 days, and Excelida is another one that we’ll look at sending to him in the future.
“We believe that supporting him with our best mares is the best strategy, and we hope that it pays off.”