New Zealand Preview: Can Sharp 'N' Smart be opposed?

March 3rd, 2023

One of the potential stars of the Sydney autumn campaign takes the stage in New Zealand’s richest Group 1 race this weekend.

The New Zealand Derby (G1) highlights a strong card at Te Rapa racecourse on Friday night Eastern Time. A good field of three-year-olds is headed by the classy #1 Sharp ‘N’ Smart, who is seeking his third Group 1 victory.

Here we have a look at the New Zealand Derby, and consider a couple of other good races on the undercard.

Race 8, 10:47 p.m. ET: New Zealand Derby (G1), 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles), 3-year-olds

New Zealand Derby selections

  • #1 Sharp ‘N’ Smart
  • #8 Mark Twain
  • #2 Desert Lightning
  • #4 Waitak

New Zealand Derby wagers

  • $30 show: #8 Mark Twain
  • $3 trifecta: 1 with 2, 4, 8 with 2, 4, 7, 8, 13
  • $1 trifecta: 8 with 1, 2, 4 with 1, 2, 4, 7, 13

#1 Sharp ‘N’ Smart appears to have a mortgage over the race. Proven in Australia, having won the Spring Champion (G1) and finishing second in the Victoria Derby (G1), he beat older horses in the Herbie Dyke (G1) last start. He never wins by much, but he is a fighter with stamina.

If he runs to his best, he should win. But it’s hard to get excited about potential odds of 3-5. If he’d won the Victoria Derby rather than being run down by Manzoice, I’d be keener.

The wild card in this race for me is #8 Mark Twain. Prepared by Roger James, who’s won this race five times, and Robert Wellwood, he’s clearly on the improve, and has ample stamina. James and Wellwood withdrew class filly Prowess in favor of Mark Twain, whose work had been much better, and it’s worth trusting his judgment.

I’m not prepared to back against Sharp ‘N’ Smart, but I’m going to support him mostly in exotics, and look for a show bet on Mark Twain. Others for lower rungs include #7 Opawa Jack and the Avondale Guineas (G2) 1-2-3 of #2 Desert Lightning, #4 Waitak, and #13 Warsaw.

Race 7, 10:12 p.m. ET: Sunline Vase (G3), 2,100 meters (about 1 5/16 miles), 3-year-old fillies

The most open of the black-type races at Te Rapa by some distance. However, I’m firmly in the camp of #1 Sedaka. Her form line may look inconsistent, but that’s mainly because of the disastrous summer in the North Island of New Zealand, which has meant a series of wet tracks, which she despises. When she’s got a good track, Sedaka has been very good, most notably when second in the Royal Stakes (G2). If the track stays good as expected, she should be hard to topple.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #1 Sedaka