Sherwood Forest (AUS) proves too strong in New Zealand Derby

The Tony Pike trained Sherwood Forest (AUS) provided Australian based ex-pat New Zealander jockey Michael Walker with yet another Group 1 win when he teamed up with Pike and the Fastnet Rock gelding for a strong win in the NZ$1m, Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on Saturday, February 29th, 2020.

A week after he rode two-year-old Tagaloa (AUS) to win the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes over 1200m at Caulfield, Walker crossed to his native New Zealand and was able to capture New Zealand's blue riband classic.

The Derby had been billed as a two-horse showdown, and after two weeks of hype and speculation, Two Illicit (NZ) started as the $2 favourite with Dragon Leap (NZ) at $3.10 with no other runner was in single figures.

Two Illicit was one of three runners in the race for trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood, and remarkably, all three finished among the top six.

Two Illicit swooped into contention at the top of the straight, a similar move to the one that launched her to an extraordinary seven-length win in the Group 2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) three weeks earlier.
But this time she had company all the way down the straight. Over the last 200 metres Sherwood Forest was simply too strong, pulling away to win by a length and a quarter under Walker.

"He just outstayed them," winning trainer Tony Pike said.

"The last few races he has been running in have been a little bit too sharp for him, but I have always thought he would come into his own over 2400 metres. It’s a fantastic result and hugely satisfying.

"It was a beautiful ride. We wanted it to be a true staying test. Michael presented him at the right time, and the horse showed what a genuine stayer he is," Pike added.
For winning rider Michael Walker the win justified his decision to work hard and continue riding after contemplating retirement recently.

"Five weeks ago I was going to give it away," Walker said.

"I was too heavy and getting sick of all the injuries. I have had 13 operations on my left hip, including a hip replacement.

"But I decided to stick with it, and I have been very fortunate to have these results. I am really grateful for the opportunity to come home and ride this horse. He gave me an amazing ride. He’s such a gentleman, and everything I asked for, he gave.

"When he got away from them in the straight, he actually pulled himself up a little bit. I might not go so soon on him, if I get the opportunity to ride him again," he said.

Sherwood Forest is the second stakes winner for the lightly raced Giant's Causeway mare Chasing Mammon, a half-sister to Sandown stakes winner Zelsnitz. As well as Sherwood Forest, Chasing Mammon is the dam of the Morphettville Guineas winner Royal Ocean, also by Fastnet Rock. Further back it's the same family as Holy Roman Emperor, Milanova, Pretty Perfect and Heart of Oak.

Sherwood Forest, a A$100,000 yearling purchase, has now earned stakes of NZ$737,875 for owners Goodson and Perron Family Trust, Calder Bloodstock Ltd and Deborah Martin.