It will be a couple of months before the TAB releases its first AAMI Victoria Derby market, but when it does Drago is almost certain to be at the top of it.


Trained by Anthony Cummings, who prepared Fiveandahalfstar to win last year’s Derby, Drago looked every bit a staying three-year-old during a productive Sydney autumn that included an unlucky fourth placing in the Group 1 Champagne Stakes (1600m).

But the $1.5 million Derby, at Flemington on 2 November, is not the only Spring Group 1 Cummings has in mind for Drago. The colt will be entered for all the feature races with the BECK Caulfield Guineas and Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) other Group 1 races Cummings is considering.

Drago’s Spring path will become clearer after he resumes in the $1 million Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill on 13 September.

“The plan, roughly, is to start first-up in the Golden Rose and then on towards perhaps the Spring Champion, but we’ve got a toss-up of the Spring Champion or the Caulfield Guineas as the next goal,” Sydney-based Cummings said.

“The races in the interim will be determined by how he’s going and what fits in with the decisions that we make, but the Golden Rose certainly is the main three-year-old race here and he’ll be in that and then we’ve got some choices to make going forward.

“He’ll be nominated for the Cox Plate, he’ll be nominated for the Derby and the Spring Champion, but we’ll just let his program unfold as it does. The way he’s come back, though, makes all of those nominations worthwhile.”

The $400,000 Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) and $1 million BECK Caulfield Guineas (1600m) will be both run on Saturday 12 October. The $3 million Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m) is a fortnight later.

Drago had about six weeks in the paddock after his four-length romp in the Juvenile Stayer (1800m) at Rosehill on 11 May and has been back at the Cummings stable for a month. Cummings expects Drago to be ready to trial in “three to four weeks”.

Cummings has a good line on what it takes to win the Victoria Derby and he said Drago looked a much better prospect than Fiveandahalfstar did at the same age.

“You look back and compare and Fiveandahalfstar ran fourth in the (Listed) Fernhill (Stakes) and this guy’s run fourth in the Champagne,” Cummings said. “You’d have to think that he’s shown more promise at the same stage.”

Unfortunately for Cummings, Fiveandahalfstar will not be accompanying Drago to Melbourne with the tough on-pacer still recovering from the fetlock injury he suffered while winning the Group 1 The BMW (2400m) at Rosehill in April.

The son of Hotel Grand will spend another month in the paddock before a brief campaign ahead of another let-up. Cummings’ sights are already set on next March’s Australian Cup, in which Fiveandahalfstar finished a narrow second to fellow three-year-old Super Cool this year.

“He’ll be in work in August and September, he’ll be in the paddock probably in October and then comes back in November for a preparation aimed towards the Australian Cup,” Cummings said. “That was the one that got away last preparation.”

Drago will not be Cummings’ sole representative in the Spring features with ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes runner-up Scandiva and Canonbury Stakes winner Never Can Tell being set for the $500,000 Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington on Derby Day. (