The Jason Magri-trained dog comes into the event in sensational form, having won his past six starts including a slick 30.50 heat triumph at Richmond on the weekend.
The black powerhouse was only fairly away from box four and had to overcome interference throughout the event, moving into second spot down the back.
Once in the clear, the son of Where’s Pedro and Bit Sassy slipped into top gear, racing to the front around the home turning and surging away from his rivals to defeat Mack Tux (box one) by two-and-one-quarter lengths on the line.
“He went good – he got into a bit of strife early but he sorted himself out then got to the lead and zipped away nicely,” Magri told Australian Racing Greyhound.
“He wasn’t drawn well and they shifted out on him early which got him off stride – but once he got balanced up he really got going.”
A winner of 15 of his 28 starts, Magri says Wicked Warrior is starting to hit his straps and develop into a top-class performer.
“He is starting to learn how to race now and he is putting the times on the board – he is going as good as he can,” he said.
“He is getting fitter and he is learning – he has matured as a dog, he has got good track sense and he is coming out better.”
However, Magri said the 32-kilogram chaser can’t afford to put a paw wrong in the $40,000-to-the-winner final, coming up against a stellar line-up including Barking Bad (box two), Ritza Lenny (box six), Patch Adam (box seven) and Nangar Flame (box eight).
“He knows what its about now, so he needs to start stepping up if he wants to make a name for himself.
“The dog is going good and I think he can overcome the draw, but with that being said there are seven other handy dogs in the race which can all run time.
“He won’t be able to make mistakes this week or he will bring himself undone – he needs to get out well and find a nice spot around the first corner.
“If he is close enough he is good enough.”
Magri says a win in the feature would be a massive thrill, with the Kemps Creek conditioner hoping to use the race as a lead up for the Group 1 Golden Easter Egg (520m) series which commences at Wentworth Park early next month.
“The Richmond Derby has always been highly rated – it sorts the men from the boys – and the Richmond track is like my local track so it would mean a lot to win,” Magri said.
“It is a good lead up race for the Easter Egg – the 535m really toughens them up – but my first priority is getting through this Friday and if he pulls up well it will be onto the Egg.”
Group 2 Richmond Derby – market
1 – El Magnifico $6.50
2 – Barking Bad $5
3 – Mack Tux $8.50
4 – Winsome Mission $26
5 – Wicked Warrior $5.50
6 – Ritza Lenny $3.50
7 – Patch Adam $3.50
8 – Nangar Flame
9 – Unlawful Entry $15
10 – Paua To Rush $31