Milford moves into Derby contention

Savabeel colt Milford made a successful middle distance debut at Ellerslie this afternoon to put him firmly in the frame for an autumn Group 1 target.

The Waikato Stud-bred and sold 3-year-old stepped out over ground for the first time in the Listed Te Akau Gingernuts Salver and loped along in fourth spot to the turn and was poised to strike on straightening.

Rider Leith Innes then asked Milford a serious question and he responded in style to further enhance his G1 New Zealand Derby prospects. His performance saw his Classic odds slashed from $61 to the second line of betting at $10.

“He’s got any amount of ability, but he’s been quite green in his races to date,” trainer Stephen Marsh said.

“We took the winkers off last time which probably didn’t work, but with those back on today he seemed to settle better during the running.

“He got a little bit lost coming around that last bend and took a few strides to balance up, but when he did find his feet again, he really put in nicely for an impressive win.”

Marsh will now ease up on the colt before bringing him back for the traditional lead-up to the New Zealand Derby, the G2 Avondale Guineas on February 20.

“He can have a little break now and then come back and go through the Avondale Guineas on his way to the Derby,” he said.

“We will see how he does with the week in the paddock, but he is a very athletic type so I don’t think he will need another run before those two races, as they are his main targets.”

Milford was a $360,000 New Zealand Bloodstock yearling Sale purchase by agent Bruce Perry on behalf of Lib Petagna’s JML Bloodstock.

He is out of the unraced O’Reilly mare Etiquette and she is a sister to the four-time Group 1 winner and ill-fated sire Sacred Falls.

The dam is also a three-quarter sister to the G3 Thoroughbred Club Stakes winner Splashing Out and she has produced the Group 2 winners Splurge and Shopaholic and Group 3 winner Packing Pins.

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