The Jockey Club has been on the defensive over the quality of this year's Derby field almost since Aucash became the first of the big guns to fire a shot back in October. Criticism of classic races is nothing new and happens the world over, but the media attacks appeared premature given that most of this season's imported four-year-olds had yet to show their true colours. The number of private purchases may have fallen below the Club's expectations this season but there were still a handful of standout buys, particularly Olympic Express and Danamite. Once that pair, along with Goggles and Cape Of Good Hope, had translated their form to the local arena, the race took on a different complexion and Sunday's race promises a fascinating clash between those expensive PPs and the PPGs such as Aucash, Jeune King Prawn, Super Molly and Precision. However, while most of the critics have been forced to eat their words over the quality of the leading Derby contenders, the race does lack depth and the ratings on paper lend support to the theory that the race is below standard this year. Last year's average rating of the 14 runners was 107, with only one contender rated below 100. That came on the back of a rising trend which had seen figures of 103 and 105 for the previous two runnings, but this year the average is back to 100, with half the field rated below the 100 mark. In the final analysis, the vital factor will be how many of the highly rated runners make the frame. If the favourites dominate as they should, the form may look as good as the 2001 vintage does now following the recent performances of Industrial Pioneer, Momentum, Helene Vitality, Red Pepper and Red Sun - the first five home in last year's Derby. And it would bolster the faith of owners in spending big money to have a shot at the $14 million classic. If, on the other hand, there is a Holy Grail-type upset, the Club's investment to put the race's prize money among the top three Derbys in the world may seem hollow indeed. A classic race needs a classic winner - let's hope we get one.