Captain Joy confirmed his status as Australia's premier three-year-old when he creamed a quality field to win the $150,000 Alabar Victoria Derby at Moonee Valley on Saturday night. The Susan Hunter-trained star secured the third Group 1 of his brief-but-glittering career when he continued the outstanding record of Breeders Crown champions in Australia's oldest pacing classic.
The gelding became the sixth horse in the past seven years to win the Derby the season after winning the 2YO Breeders Crown when he strolled home as a raging $1.50 favourite.
Winning reinsman Gavin Lang, who has now won three of the past six Derbys thanks to earlier wins on The Sentry (2004) and Tanabi Bromac (last year), left no doubt about his opinion of the son of son of.
“He’s a great little horse, but he belies his size,” Lang said. “He’s a powerful thing and you’ve only got to look at the fractions he can cut out for evidence of that.”
Lang ensured Captain Joy backers never had a worry as he cashed in on most of his biggest threats starting from the back row with a trademark cool drive.
While filly Broadways Best got the best of the start, it wasn’t long before Lang sooled his charge forward and within 300 metres of the start of the 2575m event he had found his way to the pegs. Once he was allowed to get away with a 62.2-second first half of the last mile after a moderate 72.7-second lead time the race was as good as over.
After a 28-second third split, he sizzled home the last 400m in 27.3 seconds for a 5-1/2-metre win over Broadways Best ($54) with Living On Fire ($8) rattling home for third a further 4-1/2 metres back.
Western Australian colt Crown Bromac ($13) worked his way to the death a lap and a half from home but dropped out rounding the home bend to finish sixth, while well-supported polemarker Hung Jury ($8.90) was never a factor after racing in traffic.
Lang, who was out of the sulky for several weeks earlier in the season after battling a mystery illness, said it was fantastic to be back in the Group 1 winner’s circle.
“You get an appreciation for life when you’ve been ill and you also get an appreciation of what a difference getting on these good horses makes,” he said. “These are the races that make it all worthwhile.”
The Derby capped a fine night for Lang, who also won one of the feature support events with Sammy Maguire.
The four-year-old made it five wins on the trot when he strolled home by 14 metres in the $20,000 BIG6 Country Clubs Championship Final.