An unorthodox campaign has delivered one of the more contemptuous wins of the modern era as Hitotsu blitzed his rivals in the Victoria Derby.
Going into Australia’s oldest Classic race at his sixth start and at only his third appearance for the spring, Hitotsu defied the history books in the $2 million race at Flemington.
In beating Alegron, Hitotsu did what no other three-year-old has done in almost 70 years in winning the Derby after having his final lead-up run in the Caulfield Guineas.
Hitotsu gave co-trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace their first Victoria Derby triumph and last week’s WS Cox Plate-winning jockey John Allen his second.
It was an audacious Derby plan put together by the training partnership, starting Hitotsu’s spring in relative obscurity with a win on a Victorian country track.
But there were promising signs out of the colt’s Caulfield Guineas run when fifth to Anamoe, convincing Maher he was ready to run well at Flemington despite a limited build-up.
“He was probably strongest across the line in the Guineas and we didn’t want to overrace him in because he isn’t mature,” Maher said.
Maher’s confidence was mirrored in the betting with Hitotsu heavily backed to start the $4 favourite.
But there were some anxious moments before Allen navigated an inside passage and Hitotsu responded to reel in Alegron ($6) before winning by 1-3/4 lengths.
Teewaters ($31) was another two lengths away third.
“I thought, ‘God, he just needs a run – he’s gonna blow ’em away’,” Maher said.
It was a sentiment echoed by his jockey as Hitotsu was buried away in the latter half of the field.
“I just had to ride for a bit of luck around the corner,” Allen said.
“I just needed a gap and once we got out the rest is history.”
Maher and Eustace run one of the biggest racing concerns in the country and have developed a reputation as master trainers of stayers.
There is a sense that Hitotsu could be a standout in a stable of stars over the next 12 months.
“He could be the real deal,” Maher said.
“Just to see him even since the Guineas, you know, he’ll be awesome in the autumn.”
Alegron ran bravely for Godolphin after copping the backwash of some early interference while Teewaters nudged out the $101 outsider Raging Bull for the minor placing.