A year after winning a thrilling Australian Derby on Levendi, Melbourne jockey Mark Zahra believes he has a genuine chance to go back-to-back in the Classic at Randwick aboard Declarationofheart.
Levendi gave Zahra his first Derby success 12 months ago when he got home by a nose after a two-horse battle over the final 200m with Victoria Derby winner Ace High.
"Hopefully it's not that close," Zahra quipped.
"It would be nice to have a bit more up my sleeve but to win it again would obviously be massive."
Declarationofheart finished second to fellow Derby contender Global Exchange in the Group Two Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) at The Valley in Melbourne last start and Zahra has been buoyed by the gelding's performance in a Randwick barrier trial last week when he finished a close second to grand campaigner Happy Clapper over 1200m.
"He trialled really well so I think he might actually go a bit better that way," Zahra said.
"He should be able to take up a spot I reckon, midfield or something, and if he gets the breaks I reckon he'll be right in it.
"He won really well at Sandown one day last preparation and then just struggled to put another win on the board.
"But I thought his run was good the other day in the blinkers and I got a bit more confidence out of that trial the other day. I reckon he's going really well.
"It was just good that he got around that way really well and he hit the line.
"He's some hope for sure."
The Anthony Freedman-trained Declarationofheart forms part of a book of five rides for Zahra on the opening day of The Championships at Randwick.
He also rides the threeyear-old's stablemate, four-time Group One winner Santa Ana Lane, in the $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) and Dubious in the Group One Sires' Produce Stakes.
Zahra won the Group One VRC Sprint Classic on Santa Ana Lane at Flemington last spring as a replacement for the suspended Ben Melham.
He got call-up again for the TJ Smith with Melham sidelined through injury.
"He trialled well last week and just hit the line nicely," Zahra said.
"He's got a great record. He's going to get back off them but there looks to be plenty of speed. He's going to be really strong late.
"I've been up there in Sydney the past couple of weeks with a couple of chances but I reckon this would be my best book. So hopefully I can hit the board.” -AAP