Michael Walker celebrates aboard Military Move after his Derby successPICTURE: Getty Images
Military Move marches home for NZ Derby win
Report: New Zealand, Saturday
Ellerslie: Telecom New Zealand Derby (Group 1) 1m4f, 3yo
TWENTY-FIVE years after trainer Shaune Ritchie got his first taste of Derby glory as the 16-year-old strapper to the mighty Bonecrusher, he added his own chapter to the NZ$2.2m (£1m) New Zealand Derby on Saturday, triumphing with Military Move.
Partnered to an emotional victory in New Zealand's richest race by Michael Walker, Military Move saw off ahost of better fancied rivals in a race run in fits and starts before developing into a sprint for the line.
Military Move's victory added to a rich legacy in the New Zealand Derby for the Ritchie family, who saw the nine-times Group 1 winner Bonecrusher inducted into the NZ Bloodstock Racing Hall of Fame.
"My grandfather [Merv Ritchie] was beaten a nose in this race [in 1966] with Terrific, and my father got the win with Bonecrusher [in 1985] so I'm just so proud to be a part of the legacy," Ritchie told Trackside TV.
"He really hasn't had a lot of luck this horse but we got the right race on the right day for him today. He's on his way to Hong Kong now and will be a worthy contender for the Hong Kong Derby [in 2011]."
Although Military Move, sent off at almost 15-1, finished a good second to Katie Lee in the Group 1 New Zealand 2,000 Guineas in November, the son of Volksraad had not won sinceclaiming a 6f maiden on his first race day start at Taupo in September.
A good fifth in the Group 2 Championship Stakes over 1m2f at Ellerslie a fortnight ago, Military Move signalled his well being with an excellent final work on Tuesday.
Breaking from barrier two, Military Move was one of the first to show, battling to take the lead in the early stages from Time Keeper.
Dual Group 1 winner Monaco Consul was the only one of the leading fancies to go on with the pace, settling four off the rail in sixth place in the first four furlongs, before being checked back.
Moving into the back straight, Time Keeper took over the running, taking the field through some very steady fractions. With no one wanting to go on, Monaco Consul moved back into contention, but threw away his chances almost instantly by running very wide on the home turn, and eventually came home in 11th place.
Under a cool ride from Walker, Military Move set sail for home at the top of the stretch, and it was left to Corporal Jones and Handsome Zulu to chase him home for the minor placings, with Military Move a length in front at the line and just a nose separating second and third.
Zarzuela, favourite for much of the lead up to the race, finished best of all to take fourth place, having been as much as 15 lengths off the leaders with four furlongs to run.
Dual Classic winner Katie Lee was never a contender, eventually finishing second last some 16 lengths behind the winner.
Walker, who returned to racing last year following a near-fatal pig-hunting accident, was in tears throughout his post race interview.
"I'd knew I'd win from the top of the straight," he said.
"Well, I knew I'd win after his last gallop on Tuesday! I'm only the pilot though, all credit to the horse and to Shaune."
Adding to a day to remember for the Ritchie family, Shaune's father Frank earlier took the Listed Westbury Classic with the three-year-old filly Obsession.