Riff Rocket (American Pharoah) wins the Gr.1 Australian Derby at Randwick

Coolmore Raised Riff Rocket Wins G1 Australian Derby

A homebred for Debbie Kepitis and her family through their Woppitt Bloodstock venture, Riff Rocket (3g American Pharoah x Missile Coda, by Smart Missile) claimed his third Group I victory this season when scoring a popular win as favourite in the $2million Group I ATC Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday.

Already a winner of the $2million Group I VRC Victoria Derby (2500m) and $750,000 Group I ATC Rosehill Guineas (2000m) this season, the Chris Waller trained gelding produced another superior staying effort for James McDonald to score a half length win over the late closing Ceowulf.

The first ever winner of this race for his trainer, Riff Rocket takes his overall record to seven wins and three placings from 11 starts with earnings of $3.5million.

“It’s pretty special, simple as that, and these guys (owner Debbie Kepitis and the Ingham family) were here before I had the first Group 1 winner so it’s fitting,” Waller said.

“I don’t cry as much as I used to but this one’s pretty special.

“He’s done a great job, he’s an amazing horse, he puts himself into the race at the right time.”

James McDonald gave Riff Rocket a perfect ride and the three year-old was brave when challenged.

“Amazing ride from James. He didn’t panic being back there; it was a truly run Derby, and we had that question mark over his staying ability. How dare we?” said Waller.

“He’d won a Victorian Derby, he’s by American Pharoah, who’s a Derby winner and went beyond that in the Preakness and the Belmont for the Triple Crown. I guess that’s where he gets his stamina.

“Well done to the Kepitis team, they’re great supporters of ours.

“We did it properly, we assessed after the Rosehill Guineas where he fits in and the form experts said go to the Derby. Simple as that.”

Riff Rocket was foaled, raised and educated at Coolmore and is the first winner from two to race for the stakes-placed Smart Missile mare Missile Coda, who comes from the family of multiple Group winning sprinter Rain Affair tracing in direct tail female line to the 1945 Melbourne Cup winner Rainbird.

Missile Coda was covered by Home Affairs last spring.

Riff Rocket is the eighth Group I winner and first in Australia for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who shuttled to Australia for five seasons.