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Thinkin' Big heads High Chaparral's final Derby fling

6 min read
Three of the final crop from former Coolmore shuttler High Chaparral (Ire) contest Saturday's AAMI Victoria Derby, including the favourite Thinkin' Big.

Thinkin' Big can give his sire High Chaparral (Ire) one last G1 AAMI Victoria Derby win on Saturday and co-trainer Adrian Bott has every faith that the colt has the versatility and the quality to get the job done.

Thinkin' Big is one of three from High Chaparral's final crop to contest the 2500m $2 million race and could join Monaco Consul (NZ) (2009) and Ace High (2017) as winners for the former Coolmore stallion in the historic race.

He assumed favouritism for the Derby with a dominant on-pace win in the G3 Norman Robinson S. at Caulfield two weeks' ago and Bott feels he has taken considerable improvement from that run.

"He's been faultless in his preparation and we are really happy with him going into the race. I know he got it all his own way last start, but he's a versatile horse. He's got the tactical speed there to lead. He’ll take a sit if needs be," he told RSN's Racing Pulse.

"He's been faultless in his preparation and we are really happy with him going into the race." - Adrian Bott

"He's got that extra grounding now. He's got the miles in his legs where he can withstand a high-pressure race and see out the trip. We are very confident about him running out a strong distance."

Bott feels that versatility is an underestimated aspect of Thinkin' Big's arsenal. Like most of Gai Waterhouse and Bott's horses, he usually sits up on the pace.

But in a capacity field, Bott isn’t concerned if he doesn’t get the outright lead, just so long as jockey Tim Clark gets him into the right rhythm.

"I wouldn’t be concerned in the slightest (if he doesn’t lead). He's the best horse in the race." - Adrian Bott

"I wouldn’t be concerned in the slightest (if he doesn’t lead). He's the best horse in the race. He's very versatile and he's in the right shape going into the race. He's not one dimensional in that he needs to lead," he said.

"We've been able to take advantage of that scenario a couple of times this preparation, but it is not a necessity for him by any means."

Nothin' new for Gai

Waterhouse has made the comparisons between Thinkin' Big and 1995 Victoria Derby winner Nothin' Leica Dane (Danehill {USA}), the sire of his grand-dam, all through his preparation.

She would do well to show Clark how Shane Dye rode Nothin' Leica Dane in that race, getting him across from barrier 8 (Thinkin' Big is in barrier 9) and giving him a perfect passage behind the leader Burrito (Marscay) before getting him off the rail in time to challenge at the top of the straight.

Rather than dashing for home, Dye held Nothin' Leica Dane together until the 250m mark. It was a brilliant tactic as the traffic built up behind him, with his main rival, Octagonal (Zabeel) caught up before surging too late.

The ride also ensured Nothin' Leica Dane had enough in the tank to back up three days' later and run second in a Melbourne Cup.

"We wanted to leave that option open we haven’t committed ourselves to that and he'd have to win to be able to get a place in the field." - Adrian Bott

Waterhouse has made no secret that she wants to do the same should Thinkin' Big prevail on Saturday, which would make him the first 3-year-old (southern hemisphere) to contest the Melbourne Cup in 20 years.

"Obviously it would take a special horse to be able to do that and look we hope he can be that particular horse," Bott said on Friday.

"We wanted to leave that option open we haven’t committed ourselves to that and he'd have to win to be able to get a place in the field. We’ll make that decision on the day and try and make that assessment quickly as to how he has come through that particular run and assess that at the time if necessary."

Thinkin' Big as a foal

End of the High Chap era

On Saturday, along with Visao and Home Ground, Thinkin' Big represents the end of an era for High Chaparral, who died in December 2014.

Born at Coolmore, having been bred by Peter and June Dunn, it was clear he always had the quality of his sire, according to Colm Santry, Coolmore's Sales and Nominations Manager.

High Chaparral was sadly lost in 2014

"Traditionally, High Chaparral threw great quality into his progeny and typically they are natural athletes," Santry said.

"Thinkin’ Big is a horse with great size, strength and scope and he possess the immense quality and ‘action’ that are distinctive traits of High Chaparral’s offspring." - Colm Santry

"Thinkin’ Big is a horse with great size, strength and scope and he possess the immense quality and ‘action’ that are distinctive traits of High Chaparral’s offspring. He was a real standout since the day he was born at Coolmore and his half-brother by American Pharoah this year is no different."

G3 Geelong Classic winner Home Ground, trained by John Sargent, was also born at Coolmore having been bred by Kerry and Jenny Pooley and Derby victory for either of those horses would see them become the 57th individual G1 winning graduates of Coolmore Australia since 1996.

Home Ground as a yearling

Visao, trained by Ciaron Maher, was bred by Gerry Harvey and was last seen when fourth, beaten 5.35l by Thinkin' Big in the Norman Robinson S.

Their participation will bring the total of High Chaparrals to have competed in the Victoria Derby to 11, across six editions. Breaking that down further, High Chaparral horses have won two of the five Derbies they have competed in.

Leaving a legacy

When you add in the fact that his progeny have also won two ATC Derbies, two Cox Plates, a Caulfield Cup and a Melbourne Cup in the past decade, you can see why he left such a hole.

"He has been a great loss, not only for Coolmore but for the entire industry which is evidenced tomorrow at Flemington." - Colm Santry

"He has been a great loss, not only for Coolmore but for the entire industry which is evidenced tomorrow at Flemington, with three runners in the Derby and Coolmore graduate Bring Me Roses in the Gr.1 Empire Rose Stakes for her owner/ breeders Denis & Claire O’Brien," Santry said.

"But his legacy will live on in Australia and at Coolmore through his son So You Think, who has already established himself as one of the best young sires in Australia."

So You Think

Other sons of High Chaparral at stud in Australia include Toronado (Ire), Dundeel (NZ), Alpine Eagle, Free Eagle (Ire) and Wayed Zain. In New Zealand, they include Contributer (Ire), Redwood (GB), Tivaci and Wrote (Ire).

He also has a substantial legacy as a sire of broodmares and one of the Derby runners on Saturday, Savvy Oak (NZ) (Savabeel) is out of the High Chaparral mare Fairy Oak (NZ).