A plan that was hatched shortly after progressive galloper Marchand ran second at his two-year-old debut last season looks to be well on track as the three-year-old son of Burgundy sets his sights on a tilt at the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) in March.
Bred and raced by Cambridge Stud owners Brendan and Jo Lindsay, the Lance Noble-trained runner proved too strong for his four rivals at Ellerslie on Sunday when taking out a three-year-old 1600m contest from another Derby aspirant in Te Toki.
Marchand had put the writing on the wall that a winning run wasn’t far off after finishing an unlucky third behind On The Bubbles in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) on Boxing day after throwing a shoe shortly after the start.
There were no such problems this time as rider Leith Innes camped Marchand outside Te Toki, who led at a snail’s-pace throughout, before getting the better of that rival to win by a neck on the line under a confident ride.
“He’s a horse we have always had plenty of time for, but he has been a work in progress all the way through,” Noble said.
“He was unlucky last time as he ripped his shoe off at the start and got back on a very slow speed. He still ran home really well to get third and we were confident today he could be right in the firing line.
“It turned into a real sit sprint affair, but Leith said he felt he always had them covered and there was another gear there if he needed to use it.
“He is still on a steep learning curve but both Leith and I were thrilled with the way he settled and didn’t reef and pull on such a slow speed.
“That augurs well for what we have planned for him.”
Noble was referring to the New Zealand Derby on March 5, a target that has been on the agenda since Marchand ran second on debut to talented juvenile Atullibigeal over 1300m at Ellerslie back in April last year.
“He has always appealed as a staying type once he strengthened up and he has really matured in the last few months,” he said.
“When he ran second on debut I sat down with Brendan and Jo and we talked about targeting the Derby and have worked our way back from there.
“So far things have fallen into place, but I guess it starts to get serious now as we are only a month out from the race.
“He will tackle the Avondale Guineas next (Gr.2, 2100m) and if he shows us he can handle the step up in distance then he will head to the Derby a fortnight later.
“The good thing is that he can handle a little bit of cut in the track, so if the dry summer we have been having breaks, he won’t be inconvenienced like a few of the others might be.”
By former Cambridge Stud stallion Burgundy, Marchand is out of the outstanding racemare Lashed who numbered three Group One victories amongst her seven career wins and is closely related to the Group One performers Shogun Lodge, Referral and Singing The Blues.