You'd need a crowbar to get him out of the cart of Captain Joy, but Gavin Lang doesn't subscribe to the belief that Saturday night's Alabar Victoria Derby is a one-horse race following yesterday's barrier draw. Most experts declared the $150,000 Group 1 over as a contest when last year's Breeders Crown champion Captain Joy was the only big name to draw the front row (barrier six).
But not only does Lang have immense admiration for his rivals, which include South Australian Derby winner Living On Fire, boom West Australian colt Crown Bromac and quickest heat winner Franco Newsman, he also points out that there is an unknown factor about Captain Joy's Derby campaign.
In a glittering 13-start career the son ofhas produced nine wins and almost $340,000 in stakes, the furthest Captain Joy has raced over is 2300m. Saturday night's mobile race, at 8.02pm, will be run over 2575 metres.
"The horses that have made the field have all earned their place in the race and TAB Sportsbet might have him at $1.50, but I know that you still have to have great respect for all of the opposition," he said.
"The other thing you do have to mindful of is that it is 2575 metres and a lot of them haven't been over that journey before."
Even so, Lang is confident it won't be a problem for Captain Joy. The Susan Hunter-trained star was the most resounding of last week's heat winners, coasting home by almost six metres in a 1:59.6 mile rate.
Franco Newsman went 1:58.1 to win a busy opening qualifier, while crown Bromac stopped the clock at 2:01.1 in the third heat.
"It can be hard to tell with young horses, but he felt like he had plenty left in the tank (at the end of the heat)," Lang said.
Two-time Derby winner Lang will also be hoping to resume a statistic he had a hand in breaking in last year's blue riband.
Prior to Tanabi Bromac winning last year's Derby, when driven by Lang, the Australasian Breeders Crown 2YO Colts and Geldings Final winner had gone on to win the previous five Victoria Derbys.