Group 1 galloper Kia Ora Koutou has been installed a pre-post $2.75 favourite for the $400,000 WATC Derby on April 16.

The son of Scenic Lodge champion Blackfriars was unbeaten in four starts at Pinjarra and Belmont earlier this season before travelling to Flemington for the G1 Victoria Derby. He settled in the back half of the field and was doing his best work at the finish of the classic when third to Tarzino (NZ) and Etymology.

Kia Ora Koutou was targeted by Hong Kong agents after the Melbourne Cup carnival, however, his connections opted to keep him in training with Adam Durrant.

The up-and-coming stayer was a soft trial winner at Lark Hill on February 22 and will resume in the LR Lex Piper Stakes (1600m) at Ascot this Saturday. “He’s been working well although it’s a big ask expecting him to win first-up,” Durrant said. “He can come into it but his grand-final is the WATC Derby.”

Kia Ora Koutou (3g Blackfriars – Kia Ora Miss by Jeune) is from a mare who won 10 races topped by the 2006 Belmont Oaks. “There’s a good race in him,” Durrant declared. “He can fly the flag for our stable over the next 18 months.”

Champion Sunspeed stallion Blackfriars won the 1999 Victoria Derby and he sired Rohan to win the 2012 WATC Derby. His filly Blackwood is also prominent in WATC Derby markets at $17.

WATC Derby betting: $2.75 Kia Ora Koutou $6.50 First Impressions $7 Spirit Bird, Arcadia Dream, Dreamtime Dancer $9 Heart Starter $10 The Cobbla $17 Who Dat Singa, Blackwood, Impassioned