Will Levendi take Derby honours?

Levendi wins the Group Two Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill (Lisa Grimm)

Levendi wins the Group Two Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill (Lisa Grimm)


Lightning is poised to strike twice for owner, Bruno Micalizzi, when his exciting 3YO colt, Levendi, lines up in Saturday’s $2 million Group One Harrolds Australian Derby over 2400m at Royal Randwick.

Micalizzi won a pair of Group Ones in 2016 via the first horse he owned outright, Malaguerra, and is hoping to add – substantially – to the trophy cabinet with one of Australian turf’s greatest prizes.

(The Australian Derby was first run in 1861 … the same year the Melbourne Cup was launched).

Levendi has galloped right into Derby contention following a gusty win in last Saturday’s Group Two Tulloch Stakes, edging out Astoria and Weather With You in a thriller, and currently sits on the third line of betting for the time honoured Classic.

“It was a really brave win … I was proud of the way Levendi went to the line,” Micalizzi enthused. “It’s only a week between runs, but he’s mentally tough and Peter (Gelagotis, trainer) phoned to say that the horse had pulled up very well after the Tulloch. He’s a happy horse and he’ll have one VERY happy owner if he’s good enough on Saturday!”

Levendi – one of seven stakes winners for Coolmore Australia based Pierro – captured the Group Three Carbine Club Stakes at Flemington on Derby Day last year and has now compiled a record of four wins and a second from nine starts for $356,450 in stakes.

Resuming in February with a fifth in the Group Two Autumn Stakes, Levendi ran last of 16 in the Group One Australian Guineas before a fast finishing second behind Cliff’s Edge in the Group Two Alister Clark at Moonee Valley a fortnight ago.

“I reckon you can totally discount the Guineas as he copped a big bump behind the barriers and fizzed out a bit,” Micalizzi points out. “He redeemed himself in the Alister Clark and put the writing on the wall with that win in the Tulloch.”

Micalizzi, who is currently laid up following surgery, had to cheer on from afar on Saturday, but was decidedly closer to the action than Peter and Manny Gelagotis, who had to park themselves in front of a TV at the quarantine centre in Dubai.

Both were on hand at Meydan to saddle up Group Two winning sprinter, Illustrious Lad, for the Al Quoz Sprint later that evening (Illustrious Lad would finish fifth after racing prominently early), but a video of their reaction to Levendi’s close win in the Tulloch lit up social media. ‘Excited’ probably doesn’t cover it.

Peter’s tweeted response of “(Levendi is) a huge talent who has done the stable proud” was slightly more subdued than Manny’s “you bloody ripperrrrrrrrr”, but the brothers – currently winging their way home – will be up close and personal at Randwick come Saturday.

Micalizzi explains that Levendi is Greek for “honourable young man”, and adds “I’m in the colt with the Gelagotis boys along with a couple of other Greek guys .. a wide range of great people actually”.

Another part-owner is Josh Budd, who also pays some of the feed bills for Saturday’s Group Three Neville Sellwood Stakes winner, Arbeitsam, who will back-up this weekend into the Group 1 Doncaster Mile. Budd wouldn’t be drawn on who he’s favouring as a chance to snare such a big race on the main stage.

Meanwhile, a Levendi victory in Saturday’s Derby would be somewhat welcomed by the crew at Widden Stud which is currently showing the colt’s yearling half sister – by Sebring – among its 28-strong draft for the 2018 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale that commences at 2pm next Monday.

The Levendi half (Lot 207) will be offered in Tuesday’s second session and has already caught the attention of prospective buyers according to Widden’s Antony Thompson.

“She’s an outstanding type, a great moving athletic filly,’’ Thompson claims. “A real Oaks filly.

“The dam (Lipari) has had two runners for two winners and this filly coming to Easter has shown every indication she won’t be missing out either.’’

Interestingly, if Levendi is successful in the Derby, his 2YO Triple Crown winning sire Pierro – who only once raced further than 1600m (when third in the 2040m Cox Plate) – will have produced two 2400m Classic winners in the space of six months, following on from Pinot’s success in the 2017 VRC Oaks.

HOOFNOTE: The TJ Smith trained, Tulloch won the 1957 Australian Derby and the race named in his honour was first staged in 1973. Jon Snow pulled off the Tulloch/Derby double as recently as 2017, but the previous winner of both races was Starcraft in 2004.

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