Countdown commences for WA Derby

The showdown between Ihtsahymn and Balmont Girl will draw a bumper crowd to Ascot for the G2 WA Derby (2400m) on Saturday week, April 12.

And in another plus for the Sunspeed industry, they are both locally bred three year-olds.

IHTSAHYMN (3g Ihtiram – Umatune by Umatilla) completed his classic preparation with a narrow victory over Authentic Style (Fastnet Rock) in the LR Melvista Stakes (2200m) on Saturday.  He shouldered 59kg and was conceding weight all-round but will meet those same rivals on level terms in a fortnight.

“The race worked in his favour from the bad draw,” trainer Fred Kersley said.   “He didn’t have to work and Stevie (Parnham) brought him into race at just the right time.

“He’s a seriously good horse and has been in work a helluva long time.  If he’s not fit now – he never will be.  Balmont Girl is a very smart filly and, overall, it’s a very strong bunch of three year-olds this season.”

Ihtsahymn has now earned $950,000 for a syndicate managed by his Oakland Park breeders Neville and Sue Duncan.  He claimed the G2 WA Guineas and G1 Kingston Stakes during the summer carnival and no horse has ever completed the G2 WA Derby treble.

Irish bred Ihtiram (Royal Academy) has never been recognised as one of Sunspeed’s front-line stallions despite siring 2007 Australian Horse of the Year Miss Andretti.

Bred and raced by Sheikh Hamdan, he was a Listed winner at Newbury before relocating to Lindsay Park where he emerged to win the 1997 Benalla Cup and four staying events in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Now 22, he stood in the south-west at Wayandah Stud and Oakland Park before moving north to cover mares owned by Don Hammarquist at Walkaway and Peter Smith at Jurien Bay.

BALMONT GIRL (3f Balmont – Pocket Aces by Brief Truce) started a $1.40 favourite for the G3 WA Oaks (2400m) and she was just as dominant in the race itself on Saturday.

Settled at the tail of the field by Shaun O’Donnell, she circled the field on the home turn and coasted home to score by over a length from Real Love (Desert King).  “She was expected to win so it’s a relief to get the job done,” trainer Paula Wagg admitted.  “We will head to the Derby now – she’s a genuine stayer and showed that today.”

Balmont Girl was stakes placed in the Starstruck Quality, Aquanita Stakes and Champion Fillies in November – December and began fulfilling her potential for owner Cooni Chua with a four length victory in the LR Natasha Stakes (2200m) a fortnight ago.

Her sire Balmont (Stravinsky) won the G1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket and, after initially shuttling from Ireland, is now based permanently at Lynward Park in Bullsbrook.  He got the WA Oaks winner from a mare related to Victorian stayers Ancient City (Geelong Cup) and Cosign (Seymour Cup).

Fillies have won 7 of the last 20 WA Derbies;  Dreamaway (2011), Grand Journey (2008), Honor Lap (2002), Voile D’Or (1999), Kim Angel (1998), Capricious Lass (1996) and Beaux Art (1994)

Wagg prepared Serheed filly Kim Angel to a convincing victory over Old Nick when the WA Derby was a Group 1 event.  Like Ihtsahymn, the runner-up was coming off victories in the WA Guineas and Kingston Town Stakes.

– Karl Patterson