Leading trainer Adam Durrant believes highly promising three-year-old, Kia Ora Koutou, can get his WA Derby campaign back on track in the Listed J.C.Roberts Stakes (1800m) at Ascot on Saturday.
The son of Blackfriars is looking to atone after he suffered a shock loss in last month’s Listed Lex Piper Stakes (1600m) and finished out of the placings for the first time in his short career when fifth to Heart Starter, beaten 6 ¼ lengths.
The surprising defeat was Kia Ora Koutou’s first run back since he ran a brave third to Tarzino in the Group 1 VRC Derby (2500m) at Flemington last November and raised concerns he may still be feeling the effects of a tough maiden campaign.
Durrant had no hesitation in taking Kia Ora Koutou to Melbourne and taking on the nation’s best three-year-olds after the gelding underlined his promise with impressive wins at his opening four starts at Belmont and Pinjarra.
Despite Kia Ora Koutou’s first-up flop Durrant says he is confident he has the gelding back on track and ready to impose his best against nine rivals in the Roberts Stakes after a sparkling track gallop earlier in the week.
“His work has been much improved since his first-up run,” Durrant said on TABradio.
“His work on Tuesday was the best he has produced for a long time.
“We probably rode him to well for his first up run, but I think he is back on track.
“There were definitely signs of worry first up on face value.
“But since the run we have been really pleased with him.
“We’ve done all the vet checks that you can possibly do.
“He is actually in really good shape and 100 per cent.
“I’ve stepped up his work and he has taken it in his stride.
“His grand final is Derby day but he will run a much improved race.”
While Kia Ora Koutou looks to work his back into the winning form there is no such problem for his versatile stable mate Dreamtime Dancer.
The Danehill Dancer filly has led the stable charge in recent weeks and has rocketed into WA Oaks (2400m) favouritism after back-to-back feature wins.
She heads the market at $2.80 after charging home late to win the Challenge Stakes (1500m) and leading throughout in the Ascot 1000 Guineas (1800m).
Dreamtime Dancer, drawn in barrier one for Joseph Azzopardi, will chase a feature trifecta in the Natasha Stakes (2200m).
“It will be interesting to see where she gets from gate one,’ Durrant said.
“I’m not overly fond of her leading stepping up to 2200m.
“I would like to see her relax behind them and get a soft run.
“She is a genuine stayer who will be hard to beat again.”
RWWA: Julio Santarelli