Derby Hopeful

TRAINER Danny O'Brien strengthened his grip on the Victoria Derby when Villain won the listed Super Impose Stakes (1800 metres) at Flemington yesterday.

Villain, a maiden before yesterday, replaced stablemate Barbaricus as favourite for the staying classic on November 3 with his barnstorming performance.

Having just his fourth start, Villain, the $5 favourite, scored by a length over Bammagera ($7), with two lengths to Jabal Tarik ($8) third.

"I've always had a really high opinion of this horse," O'Brien said. "He had to give them all a start but he picked them up quickly. He's got the pedigree of a top-class horse and today's the first time he's given everyone a look at him."

Settling second last from a wide barrier in the big field, jockey Steven Arnold sought to teach the three-year-old to relax but even he was surprised with the display of speed Villain showed over the concluding stages.

"He ran his race in patches but when he straightened he uncorked a big finish and it was a very impressive win," Arnold said. "He went from a long way off cornering to gobbling them up a furlong (200 metres) out, so he's got a good turn of foot."

O'Brien said that Villain would have his next start in the Norman Robinson Stakes (2000 metres) at Caulfield in a fortnight as his final lead-up race to the Victoria Derby (2500 metres).

Barbaricus, last-start winner of the Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley, will run in Saturday's Caulfield Guineas (1600 metres). "We've got some really lovely three-year-olds this season and they are all coming good at the right time," O'Brien said.

by Patrick Bartley - The Age

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