Sherwood Forest (Fastnet Rock) winning the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby

G1 New Zealand Derby Hero for Fastnet Rock

Champion sire Fastnet Rock can never be underestimated in a Group I contest and his three year-old son Sherwood Forest (3g Fastnet Rock x Chasing Mammon, by Giant's Causeway) tore up the script of a two-horse race in Saturday’s Group I Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie when powering clear for an upset victory.

After dominant performances by star filly Two Illicit in the Group II Waikato Guineas (2000m) and Dragon Leap (3g Pierro x Pontiana , by Redoute's Choice) in the Group II Avondale Guineas (2100m) leading into the $1 million classic, all eyes were on that pair in what was billed as a possible match race.

The blue-blooded gelding and the X-factor filly took turns holding favouritism around the $2.50 mark during the week, with no other runner in single figures.

Lurking at $13 was Sherwood Forest. A placegetter in the Group I New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) in the spring, his trainer Tony Pike had the utmost confidence in Sherwood Forest on the score of stamina. Over a truly run 2400 metres, Pike believed he had the horse to outstay most of the Derby field.

Pike was exactly right. In the fastest New Zealand Derby since So Casual clocked 2:24.8 in 1998, it was Sherwood Forest who stood strongest of all.

Ridden by star Melbourne-based Kiwi jockey Michael Walker, Sherwood Forest overpowered his rivals to win by more than a length over Two Illicit with Dragon Leap fourth.

It was a third Derby win for Walker, following Military Move in 2010 and Puccini in 2014, and a second for Pike after Rangipo in 2016.

“He just outstayed them,” Pike said. “The last few races he’s been running in have been a little bit too sharp for him, but I’ve always thought he would come into his own over 2400 metres. It’s a fantastic result and hugely satisfying.

“He was a bit of a ratbag as a two-year-old, but the team have put in a lot of work with him, and this season was always going to be about the Derby. It’s great when a plan comes off.

“It was a beautiful ride. We wanted it to be a true staying test. He presented him at the right time, and the horse showed what a genuine stayer he is.”

Pike said a decision had yet to be made on the remainder of Sherwood Forest’s season, but a shot at the Group I Australian Derby (2400m) on April 4 was now likely.

A $100,000 Magic Millions purchase from the Coolmore draft for New Zealand Bloodstock, Sherwood Forest runs for his breeders Goodson & Perron Family Trust in partnership with Calder Bloodstock Ltd and Deborah Martin and has won four of 11 starts earning over $700,000 in prizemoney.

He was foaled and raised at Coolmore and is a full brother to stakes-winner Royal Ocean being from Chasing Mammon, a half-sister by Giant’s Causeway to stakes-winner Zelsnitz from the family of dual Group I winner and leading sire Holy Roman Emperor.

Chasing Mammon has a yearling colt by Starspangledbanner, a weanling colt by Fastnet Rock’s champion son Merchant Navy and is now in foal to Saxon Warrior.

Sherwood Forest is the 38th Group I winner for Fastnet Rock, who has four entries for Inglis Premier and you can see them here.