Co. Cork-born jockey Johnny Allen won his second Group One South Australian Derby with a victory aboard the Darren Weir-trained Volatile Mix at Morphettville Racecourse in Adelaide.
The Irishman, who won the 2,500m AUS $600,000 prize in 2016 with Howard De Thy Name, combined again with Victorian trainer Weir to land the set-weight race for three-year-old at the Adelaide Racing Carnival.
The race began almost 10 minutes late following the withdrawal of both Waging War, who had beaten Volatile Mix into fourth place the Group 3 Chairman’s Stakes (2,030m) at Morphettville Parks a fortnight ago, and Docker Pav, who both played up at the stalls.
On starting, it was the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained filly Sedanzer who took up the front running ahead of the well-supported favourite from Melbourne Odeon. Netherfield, the mount of former Melbourne Cup-winning rider, Damien Oliver, moved out wide of the leader, with Odeon soon back in third, ahead of Ruthven.
Johnny Allen allowed his lightly-raced mount, Volatile Mix, settle toward the back of the field, bringing him through from the 600m (3f) pole to be within striking distance, as Ruthven lead coming around the home turn. Into the straight, Odeon looked a likely winner until Volatile Mix, a son of Pentire, had the favourite in his sights at the 200m (1f) mark. Allen’s horse sprinted hard and proved himself the best stayer, winning by a half-length over Ruthven, who stayed on well after a wide run to consign Odeon to third, a further 1¼ lengths away.
Corkman Allen said Darren Weir had the horse in perfect order for the race:
“He was trained to the minute. I wasn’t as confident as last year but he really just outstayed them in the end.”
Weir was full of praise for his jockey’s smart riding, especially Allen’s decision not to swing wide on the home turn, but instead to follow Odeon through before overpowering the favourite:.
“He’s a great rider. I keep telling people he’s just a good jockey who likes going over the jumps and he showed that again today. He was three wide tracking them into the race and Johnny’s decision to wait and go between horses rather than around them was the winning move.’
Volatile Mix covered the 2,500m in 2:37.09, the fastest South Australian Derby time since 2001. He will now chase a Group 1 Derby double when he heads to Brisbane for the $600,000 Queensland Derby at Eagle Farm on June 10th.
Allen’s victory saw him become the first rider to achieve back-to-back success in the race since Danny Nikolic in 2002-03. Weir becomes the first trainer of successive South Australian Derby winners since 1996-97.