Ihtsahymn has thrived since his Melvista Stakes win and his grip on favouritism for Saturday's $400,000 Schweppes WATC Derby will strengthen after drawing barrier two.

The Group 1 winner received his first positive draw of the autumn, having started from wide gates in three runs leading up to the 2400m feature.

And with WA Oaks (2400m) winner Balmont Girl drawing wide in barrier 11, Ihtsahymn is likely to start a hot favourite.

He was the $2.40 favourite ahead of Balmont Girl ($3.80) before the final field of 12 was declared yesterday. The TAB's market will reopen today.

Jockey Steven Parnham has been impressed with Ihtsahymn since he stormed home under 59kg to beat Authentic Style in the Melvista Stakes (2200m).

"That was always the way Fred (Kersley) planned it, having the horse peak for this," Parnham said.

"He's really come on since his last run. He hit the line strongly the other day and has drawn well, so he should get a nice run.

"I think he'll run it out, no problems."

Ihtsahymn overcame barrier 15 to win the Melvista.

He ran second in the Lex Piper Stakes (1600m) and JC Roberts Stakes (1800m) when jumping from barriers nine and 15.

Parnham said Ihtsahymn's summer campaign, highlighted by a Group 1 win in the Kingston Town Classic (1800m), gives the gelding an advantage over Balmont Girl.

Balmont Girl scored a scintillating 4¼-length win in the Natasha Stakes (2200m) and backed it up with a strong 1¼-length victory in the Oaks.

"She's obviously done a great job winning her last two races and is proven at the distance," Parnham said.

"But he is proven against open-class horses from last summer." It's going to be a great contest."

Ihtsahymn is also suited at set weights in the derby, dropping 2.5kg on his last-start win.

Parnham is chasing his first win in the Group 2 classic.

Trainer Paula Wagg said Balmont Girl had trained on well since her Oaks victory.

"She's just blossomed," Wagg said. "Going into a race like his you can't ask for anything more.

"It's not a big field so the barrier isn't too bad. She'll go back a bit anyway."

Shaun O'Donnell will again ride Balmont Girl. Seven fillies have won the derby since 1996.

Black Heart Bart was cleared to start in the derby after winning a 1450m trial at Lark Hill by 3½ lengths yesterday.

He's really come on since his last run."Steven Parnham

The West Australian

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