TRAINER Kerry Parker, who grew up in the Nowra racing scene before moving to Kembla Grange, is ready to target another Melbourne Cup appearance after claiming his first Group 1 with Dark Dream in the Queensland Derby at Doomben on Saturday.
Jockey Tim Clark launched a sustained run from the 600m mark – and only Darren Weir’s Heavenly Thought would be able to push Parker’s three-year-old gelding in the straight.
But after targeting this Brisbane winter campaign since December, Parker celebrated the breakthrough moment as a Group 1-winning trainer.
“He is just a real stayer and I knew I had him right, but this is a Derby – they don’t give them away,” Parker said.
Parker watched the Derby unfold and at the 800m mark he was getting itchy fingers.
Tim Clark seemed to be on the same wave length.
“I wanted him to go because I know how strong he is,” Parker said.
“When he took over at the 600m I thought 'it's up to you now boy', and he was the strongest stayer.
“He is going better when the races get longer, and a race like the Melbourne Cup is there for him in the spring.”
Parker’s been to the Melbourne Cup twice, in 1994 when AJC St Leger winner Gold Sovereign led and trailed off last, and again with light-weight $61 shot Don Raphael, 20th after beating Catchmeifyoucan in the 2004 then-named Group 3 Saab Quality.
Clark made a long sweeping run but had to run down the Darren Weir-trained Heavenly Thought, which had cut the corner and put a length on Dark Dream halfway down the straight.
But Dark Dream ($4.20 fav) just kept finding to win by a short neck from Heavenly Thoght ($8), with Queensland Oaks winner Youngstar ($6.50) 2-3/4 lengths third.
“He is just so strong and it is credit to Kerry the way he got him here,” Clark said.
“I rode him here four weeks ago [to win the Rough Habit] and he was ultra-impressive.
"He had a bit of a hiccup the other day, but Kerry was always confident he would have the horse right on the day, and to his credit he had him spot on.
“Kerry held his nerve. He could have overworked the horse and not had a horse for the Derby. He trusted himself to back off him a bit, and he had him cherry ripe.
“Weiry’s horses aren’t easy to get past, and he was able to outstay him.”
Owner-breeder Mary Jane Basson had felt sick for two weeks after turning down $2 million for Dark Dream but with 100 metres to go she was feeling on top of the world. This wasn't a nightmare, it was the sweetest of dreams.
Her ''baby'', by All American out of Buchanan Girl, a mare she bought for $500 to save her from the glue factory, was winning a Derby and aiming at the biggest races in the country.
“I was sick for two weeks after saying no,” Basson said. “I couldn’t sell him. When are you going to get a Derby runner? He is my baby and you don't sell family.
“Now we have a Derby winner and we can look to the spring.”