Brilliant Efficient tidies up Victoria Derby

Three-year-old Kiwi-bred gelding Efficient (Zabeel-Refused The Dance by Defensive Play) yesterday's VRC Victoria Derby 2500m G1 in a manner rarely seen in a major race at Flemington. In doing so, he gave the New Zealand breeding industry its 12th Victoria Derby win since 1980, and its first since Amalfi in 2001. He also provided champion sire Zabeel with his 35th Group One winner, and his first Victoria Derby winner.

Michael Rodd salutes the judge on EFFICIENT (NZ) after the 2006 Victoria Derby G1.
PHOTO: Racing and Sports
Smothered on the rails for much of the race, Efficient and rider Michael Rodd found daylight with only 200 metres to go, but the horse sprinted with such alacrity the result was immediately put beyond doubt.

Gorky Park (Montjeu-Steluta by Defensive Play; bred by Rachel Savory, Christchurch) ran a fine race for second, completing a notable quinella for the (NZ) brand, and for damsire Defensive Play who shuttled to Waikato Stud, 1993-98. Gorky Park was a $360,000 NZ Premier Yearling Sale purchase by highly successful Adelaide owner and breeder Les Samba in 2005. Mr Samba has another reason to be happy with the Derby result: he was also the buyer of Efficient's half-brother by Montjeu at this year's New Zealand Premier Sale.

Montjeu was also represented yesterday by four-year-old Growl, second to the splendid Desert War in the MacKinnon S. 2000m G1.

Efficient's co-breeder and part-owner Scott Williams, speaking today from Melbourne where he was about to join Rich Hill studmaster and NZTBA councillor John Thompson for a celebration lunch, says, "It was a dangerous way to ride the horse, but it worked.I thought we were beaten, then he came out and it was all over."

Scott, an accountant based in Cambridge, bred Efficient in partnership with Graeme Hunt, Wellington. They sold the horse to trainer Graeme Rogerson at the 2005 New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale, but retained 25% of the horse, along with Mike and Tony Sellars. The 75% majority owner is Melbourne property developer and long-time Rogerson client Lloyd Williams, who was reportedly speechless after the race.

Graeme Hunt and Mike Sellars had raced Refused The Dance together, and bred her first foal, Cold Shoulder. After breeding Efficient in partnership with Scott, Graeme bred the 2004 Montjeu colt on his own account and the mare was served by Zabeel again last year.

Scott says he's been involved in racing "since I was a kid – as soon as I learned how to gamble." Through his company Bloodstock Resources Ltd, he now owns "quite a few" broodmares, including What Can I Say (in partnership with Rich Hill Thoroughbreds Ltd), Cent For Me, a half-sister to G1 Dowry, and Gin Player, dam of G2 Run Like The Wind.

Although the owners have paid the $A132,000 late entry fee for Tuesday's Melbourne Cup, allowing Efficient to take up the place reserved for the Derby winner in the field, Scott says a final decision about a start hasn't been made. "For me the pinnacle is winning the Derby – running in the Melbourne Cup is second." However, he and the horse's other New Zealand owners are changing their return flight arrangements, so they can remain in Melbourne for the Cup.

- Susan Archer


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