In-form sprinter Durendal is chasing his first win at Moonee Valley when he lines up in the Group 2 $200,000 Jeep Australia Stakes (1200m) on Saturday.
Durendal is the winner of seven of his sixteen starts with wins at Moe, Caulfield twice, Pakenham, Ballarat and Flemington twice but his only attempt at Moonee Valley resulted in a third in a 1200m BenchMark 78 Handicap in November 2014.
But co-trainer Simon Zahra is confident that Durendal will have no trouble handling the tricky circuit when he returns three on the weekend.
“He hasn’t won there but he’s pretty versatile,” Zahra, who trains in partnership with Matthew Ellerton, told Racenet.
“He’s won at Moe, Caulfield, Pakenham, Ballarat and Flemington and they’re all different types of tracks so the Valley won’t be a worry for him.”
Zahra is more concerned if the four year old will handle the step up to weight for age after winning his last three starts under handicap conditions.
“The weight-for-age is a concern because it’s the first time at that level,” Zahra said.
“He’s got to rise to the occasion. It’s a bit different when he’s on the minimum in a handicap. He was pretty well weighted in the Standish.
“It will give us a good guide to where he stands.”
Durendal has worked his way up through the classes and completed a hat trick of wins with his victory in the Group 3 $150,000 Standish Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on New Year’s Day.
A win in a 1400m BenchMark 84 Handicap at Ballarat on November 21 was the first leg of his trio of wins followed by a win in a 1200m Handicap down the Flemington straight on December 12.
Damian Lane has been aboard Durendal for four of his seven wins, including his last two, and will be the pilot again on Saturday.
The Australia Stakes is the toughest test Durendal has faced with four Group 1 winners lining up against him on Saturday.
Group 1 winners Rebel Dane, Mourinho, Adelaide sprinter Hucklebuck and Trust In A Gust are all resuming from a spell and Durendal will definitely have a fitness edge over them.
The Gary Portelli trainer Rebel Dane is at the top of the Australia Stakes market order at Ladbrokes.com.au at $3.30 with Durendal sitting on the second line of betting at $7.50.
But the rest of the top end of the market order is very congested with five other runners under the $10 mark with Hucklebuck and Holler at $8, Trust In A Gust at $8.50 and Mouritnho and Rageese sharing the $9 line.