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G1 Australian Derby could be the next test for Character

Dave Murray

Head trainer James Cummings will decide on Tuesday morning if rising young stayer Character takes his place alongside stablemate Alegron in the G1 ATC Australian Derby over 2,400m at Royal Randwick in Sydney on Saturday, 2 April.

Character burst into Derby contention with a tough win in the G2 Tulloch Stakes over 1,850m at Newcastle on Monday.

By the former champion Irish galloper and renowned sire of elite distance gallopers Teofilo, Character (Tommy Berry) raced past race favourite Sword Point in the home straight and then held off Regal Lion to notch his first win at Stakes level and the third of his career for prize money earnings of $268,040.

Cummings, who has decided to bypass the Derby and reserve champion colt Anamoe for the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at weight-for-age at Randwick on 9 April, was thrilled with Character’s performance.

“He looked fit and strong, travelled all the way for Tommy Berry and one might look at it as the perfect pipe-opener if we accept with him in the morning providing he pulls up perfectly from his Tulloch Stakes win,” Cummings said after the race.

“He’s won from two from three and finished third (this preparation) and he’s got the runs into his legs from last year to have him tough enough to run the 2,400m.

“And the form of the race this afternoon might well have some bearing on the Derby given the wet track and the prospect of the opposition he might face.”

The three-year-old gelding won at Kembla Grange first-up in a Benchmark 68 race against older horses carrying 60kg before finishing third at Rosehill Gardens in the G2 Phar Lap Stakes (1,500m) at Rosehill Gardens in early March behind Mr Mozart, who then franked the form with a gutsy win in the G3 Doncaster Prelude over 1,500m at Newcastle on Monday.

Character is now a better racehorse after being gelded.

“There’s no question, he’s going better, he’s moving better and handling his racing and training in better fashion,” Cummings said.

“He’d had a lot of racing to get him into the right headspace for the Victoria Derby (eighth), he was still a colt at the time and not easy to handle.

“Tommy was quite impressed with the horse today, he felt like there may have been a little more left in hand.

“He got a really good feel for him and rode his with nice timing. He’s very keen to ride him in the Derby.”

While Character’s place in the Derby field won’t be confirmed until Tuesday, Alegron is a certain starter despite not racing since finishing 11th to Hitotsu in the G1 Australian Guineas over 1,600m at Flemington on 5 March.

“Alegron needed to be kept fresh from the Guineas, he didn’t need any more racing and he’s looking for the mile and a half now,” Cummings said of the VRC Derby runner-up. “And it’s full steam ahead with Anamoe into the Queen Elizabeth.”