IN Racing
Desert Lightning set to strike in Derby
Trainers Peter and Dawn Williams are hoping they can upset the applecart when they head to Te Rapa on Saturday.
LOVERACING.NZ | March 02, 2023
Desert Lightning. Photo: Trish Dunell

Trainers Peter and Dawn Williams are hoping they can upset the applecart when they head to Te Rapa on Saturday.

The South Auckland couple will line-up Desert Lightning in the Gr.1 Auckland Thoroughbred Racing New Zealand Derby (2400m) where TAB bookmakers believe he has an insurmountable task ahead of him.

A clear $8 second favourite, the Pride of Dubai gelding is the only runner in single figures outside red-hot favourite Sharp ‘N’ Smart who sits at $1.70 after drawing gate four on Wednesday, one place outside Desert Lightning.

“Let’s hope it turns out to be a good draw,” Peter Williams said. “He should hopefully get a good run from there.”

While his trainers admit Desert Lightning has a big task ahead of him this weekend, they believe he has the potential to knock-off his more fancied rival, particularly given his last start victory in the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas (2100m).

“It was his first time over ground and he seemed to settle and do everything right,” Williams said.

“That was the race to check him out in to see if everything would go according to plan. He did everything right and hopefully he can do everything right again on Saturday.

“No one really knows if they can get the Derby distance until they run 2400m. Sharp ‘N’ Smart has had a go at that distance, but we haven’t. All we can do is hope he does get the distance.

“Sharp ‘N’ Smart is definitely the horse to beat but there are two or three others that go alright too. It will be the horse that gets the best run.

“But everything has been going well with him, so we are happy.”

Desert Lightning will be partnered once again by Vinnie Colgan, the most successful jockey in the New Zealand Derby, with six wins in the Classic.

“He has got a great record in the Derby and you couldn’t have a better man on in the Derby,” Williams said.

A trip across the Tasman could beckon if Desert Lightning performs well this weekend.

“I have got a nomination in for the Australian Derby (Gr.1, 2400m) but we will just get through Saturday before we make any further plans,” Williams said.

The stable will be seeking more stakes success on Saturday when they line-up Sea The Light in the Gr.3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m).

“I am very happy with her. She is working well and has done everything right and she gets her chance on Saturday,” Williams said.

The daughter of Astern has finished midfield in her last two starts over 2000m and Williams is hoping for an improved result this weekend.

“At her last start she was probably short of a run going into the race, but we were very happy with it,” he said.

“Hopefully she is ready this time for 2000m, but we will see what happens.”

Sea The Light is a $26 outside chance with TAB bookmakers who have installed the Ben Foote-trained Sakura Girl a $4.50 favourite.

Sea The Light is nominated for the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham in a fortnight, with her performance this weekend dictating whether she makes the trip south.

“If she stays and goes well enough she will go onto the Oaks, but she will have to go a good race on Saturday,” Williams said.

Dawn Williams Desert Lightning Sea The Light Pride Of Dubai Peter Williams Sharp ‘N’ Smart Vinnie Colgan