IT'S not how Charlton trainer Greg Norman envisaged his tilt at the Group 1 Victoria Derby would unfold, but he's still grateful to have one chance of qualifying for the October 9 final.
The astute trainer started last month with three hopefuls; that quickly got whittled down to one.
Likely the best of his crop of three-year-olds, Stag Party won impressively on his Australian debut at Bendigo, but was later diagnosed with a stress fracture in a hock and is out of action.
Ditto for Norman's Group 3 South Australian Pacing Derby winner Aladdin, who was also ruled out after exhibiting the signs of a long campaign, which also took the gelding to New South Wales in June.
That has left Apieceoflou - a winner of four of his 18 Australian starts - to fly the flag for the stable in this Saturday night's derby heats at Lord's Raceway.
While he means no disrespect, Norman candidly refers to Apieceoflou, who finished third behind his stable-mate Aladdin in the Group 3 South Australian Derby in April, as his 'third stringer'.
He knows it will take something special for the son of Sweet Lou and Wantapieceofme to qualify for the $200,000 final in a week's time, particularly having to negotiate the toughest of the three heats on paper.
But Norman insists Apieceoflou, to be driven by Kerryn Manning, is capable of a bold effort after drawing the pole.
"We've got the draw - we can't complain about that," he said.
"But the two favourites (Bondi Lockdown and American Dealer) are in our heat and that's two that will likely go into the final ahead of us.
"It's a bit disappointing there's no Stag Party and no Aladdin.
"They were the main two hopes, so the wheels fell off a bit. I guess it's up to Lou now to hold the team up."
Norman was by no means disappointed with Apieceoflou's last start seventh in the Reg Withers Three-Year-Old Classic at Kilmore behind the Emma Stewart-trained Act Now, which followed a sixth at Maryborough.
"I thought he went okay at Maryborough when Abby (Sanderson) drove him and he came home in a fast last half and then last start at Kilmore he was last into the straight, but ran past four or five of them," he said.
"That was a good field.
"I'm certain the long journey (2650m) will suit him - I don't think that will be the case for a lot of them."
Norman will have two runners for the night at Lord's Raceway, with Zadaka engaged in the Allied Express Pace over 2150m later in the night.
Fellow Charlton trainer Shane Sanderson will also have two runners on the night, including Platinum Stride in the second heat of the derby qualifiers and Equity Stride in the opening race.
Platinum Stride has been in solid form since joining the Sanderson stable, following a win at Cranbourne in early August with a second at Melton last week.
He won his previous two starts in June and July before the switch in trainers.
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