With seven of the 18 runners in Saturday’s $600,000 Group 1 Moet and Chandon Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm, supporters of the Chris Waller stable were spoiled for choice.
In a driving finish, it was James McDonald on the stables confidently supported Night Of Thunder (IRE) gelding Kukeracha who edged the stables number one choice Senor Toba (Toronado), with Hugh Bowman in the saddle.
Race favourite Explosive Jack covered himself in glory again. At the tail end of a demanding season, the son of Jakkalberry (IRE) burst through between runners and looked the likely winner before the Waller pair swooped late ouut wide.
First G1W for @DarleyStallions Night Of Thunder as the @WaikatoStud @KarakaChat purchased Kukeracha, trained by @cwallerracing & ridden by @mcacajamez, wins the G1 QLD Derby for great client Neville Morgan 🍾🥂🎉 @anz_news @TDNAusNZ @NZTM_TWEET @DarleyEurope @BrisRacingClub pic.twitter.com/h1SZDQy5nI— Mulcaster Bloodstock (@MulcasterBS) May 29, 2021
It was the eighth Group 1 of the season for McDonald and the 54th of his career.
McDonald admitted that if he had the choice, he would have ridden Senor Toba.
“Chris makes the decisions, and I was lucky enough to be on the right horse today. They say jockeys are the worst decision-makers, so I’m happy I did not have that choice, ” McDonald said.
“Luke Dittman has been riding him in trackwork and said he is cherry-ripe.”
Carrying the familiar colours of Neville Morgan, Kukeracha made a winning debut at Geelong in a 2yo maiden over 1200m back in April last year.
He had added just one win in seven starts since. He had placed in the Group II Queensland Guineas and Group III Rough Habit Plate at his two most recent starts.
It was the 15th Group 1 of the season for Chris Waller and the 126th in a storied career.
The champion trainer said he was keen to back up the first two in the $1.2m Q22 (2200m) at Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Handicap Day.
“When I saw Explosive Jack kicking I thought we were going to run a nice second or third,” Waller said.
“Lofty and the team up here have done a fantastic job with this horse.
“We had a great opinion of him as a 2yo, but he lost his way a bit. He was gelded and taken through the system. He ran a good race up here in the Grand Prix in the summer. I wanted to give him some experiene on the track as he was not racing that well then.
“I think that was a good move because his run in the Queensland Guineas was good, his last start in the Rough Habit was good and today he was brilliant.”
Kukeracha was purchased by Mulcaster Bloodstock for $130,000 out of the Waikato Stud draft at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale.
A half-brother to the Group III Keith F Nolan Classic and Listed Scone Cup winner Cameo (Shamardal), Kukeracha is the best of five winners from seven out of the royally-bred AP Indy mare Portrait Of A Lady (USA).