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Forsman stable ready to swing the bat

Wed 29 May 2024

By Jordan Gerrans

Andrew Forsman is on one of his first solo trips to the Sunshine State as a trainer and the Kiwi is full of optimism when it comes to his Derby runners.

The Forsman barn will be represented by First Innings (to be ridden by Jim Byrne) and Moonlight Magic (Michael Dee) in Saturday’s Group 1 staying contest over 2400 metres.

First Innings is a known commodity in Queensland after a slashing victory at Ipswich last week to force his way into the Derby field, but the youthful conditioner believes Moonlight Magic will be just as competitive.

First Innings was on the outside looking in on the Derby field earlier this month before his stunning Ipswich romp which saw his price slashed for the Group 1 event this Saturday.

Champion local rider Jim Byrne was in the seat at Ipswich last Wednesday and will again be the Kiwi stayers' partner on race day.

Byrne ensured he gave First Innings a look around Eagle Farm on Tuesday morning on the course proper and was still beaming about the Ipswich performance.

Over 2180 metres, First Innings was well back in the Ipswich field against his own age before rounding them up in quick fashion to score by more than two lengths with ease in the end.

“He was very good, he has got a very, very quick turn of foot,” the rider said.

“I never anticipated that going through his videos as he looks like a big grinder.

“To win a Derby you need to have that turn of foot and showing me what he has got on Tuesday morning, he was very relaxed in his work.

“He was very relaxed in his race the other day. It was very, very pleasing the way he worked on Tuesday.

“It was nice and comfortable work. I was very, very pleased with the way he came through it.”

Ahead of the Derby, First Innings and Moonlight Magic worked together on Tuesday over 1800 metres and finished strongly over the final half mile.

Forsman was in the grandstand to watch the hit-out and noted they went 37 seconds from the 600 metre mark to the winning post and remarked they were both strong at the line and past the post.

Forsman was previously in a partnership with master Kiwi trainer Murray Baker before going out on his own accord.

He campaigned Group 1 winner The Chosen One to Queensland in the winter of 2022 through feature staying races not long after the partnership dissolved.

Forsman was taken by the Ipswich run of First Innings.

“It was great, clearly the race was set up for him as they went hard early,” he said.

“That is what he needed to be a winning chance. I just love that he won comfortably and he was eased down to the line.

“We were there at Ipswich to obviously get into the Derby and that was probably why we were so long in the market before that race.

“We thought we were up against it after drawing wide and having to go to last but to see him win like that, it would have caught a few people’s attention.”

The bay gelding contested the New Zealand Derby in March and while he did not figure in the finish, Forsman says First Innings was a different horse since his maiden outing at the elite level.

“He has just bloomed since the run in the Derby and the break,” he said.

“He has just come back a different horse.

“We have always thought right from the start that he would be a big staying type and might be better as an older horse, but it has improved quite quickly.

“He is a real stayer and that is going to be where he comes into his own.

“He probably does not have the turn of foot as some of the others in the Derby but if it’s a testing 2400 metres and he can get a soft run early – he will be strong late.”

Byrne is locked and loaded to ride the Kiwi hopeful in Saturday’s Derby but he also has intimate knowledge of race favourite Autumn Angel.

The 52-year-old hoop has been riding some work for the partnership of Peter Moody and Katherine Coleman during the winter and thinks First Innings will need to be at his absolute best on Saturday to topple the favourite.

“She is going to be hard to beat as that was a good run in the Rough Habit the other week,” Byrne said.

“I think she is going to be very hard to beat and it is a tough race, this one is always a tough race.

“But, I think this bloke can definitely chalk up a decent run.”

Forsman has been a busy man in recent weeks going between his New Zealand and Melbourne stables while also heading north to keep an eye on his Queensland carnival team.

While First Innings has created all the headlines so far, the trainer believes Moonlight Magic can be just as impactful on Saturday.

The filly is a last-start Group 3 winner across the ditch.

She is also nominated for the Oaks the following Saturday after the Derby.

“The form lines are very similar to First Innings as she has raced in good fillies' company back home in New Zealand right the way through the season and has been unlucky,” Forsman said.

“Her pattern is to get back as well. She was a strong winner of a Group race and she has again been a big improver and consistently done so.

“She has raced without a lot of luck and her form probably does not do her justice.”

First Innings is a $20 chance in the Derby as of Thursday afternoon while stable mate Moonlight Magic is at $35.

Autumn Angel heads the market at $2.60.