Hitotsu’s slice of history in Penfolds Victoria Derby

31 October 2021

The Group 1 Penfolds Victoria Derby has a storied history dating back to 1855, but few boast the credentials of Hitotsu, Saturday's winner of the staying classic on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. 

No horse since Monte Carlo in 1956 had won the Penfolds Victoria Derby straight out of the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m) - and Monte Carlo had won the AJC Derby at a mile and a half before dropping in trip for the Caulfield Guineas.

However, Hitotsu was taking his first foray beyond a mile in Saturday's Derby, a feat that seemed almost impossible in the modern era.

The son of Japanese superstar Maurice lapped up the 2500 metres of the Penfolds Victoria Derby, though, racing clear under John Allen to score by a widening length and three-quarters over Godolphin colt Alegron with the rapidly improving Teewaters a further two lengths away in third.

It was a first Penfolds Victoria Derby victory for the state's leading trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, with Hitotsu taking home a barrel of Penfolds Magill Cellar 3 from the sponsors valued at $160,000.

“Will Bourne, my bloodstock manager, he sourced the horse and we went down to have a look at him," Maher said. "He was fairly immature and that is probably why his program has developed the way it has. He’s still a relatively immature horse.

"He’s very cleanwinded. With his run in the Guineas - we were happy to go to the Guineas off a maiden - and he was probably the strongest on the line in the Guineas. We didn’t want to overrace him.

"When I had a look at him six months ago there wasn’t a lot of him there but what he had done on the track, he looked unbelievable. Now to see him even since the Guineas, he’ll be awesome in the autumn. He could be the real deal."

Allen added his second Penfolds Victoria Derby, having won on Extra Brut in 2018, and it came after he took out the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) last weekend on State Of Rest.

"We got into a nice position coming out of the straight but the tempo just came back out of the race," he said. "There was a three-wide line which I was trying to get to because all the fancied ones seem to be out there but they came around me and kept me in so I just had to ride for good luck around the corner. 

"He was travelling that well, I just needed a gap, but once he got out the rest is history. He is a pretty talented horse. I have no doubt he is good enough to win a Group 1 over a mile."

That chance at a 1600-metre Group 1 win could come at Flemington in the Group 1 Australian Guineas in the autumn.