Victorian trainer Patrick Payne will use the Group 3 $300,000 Sportingbet Powerd By William Hill Geelong Cup (2400m) at Geelong on Wednesday as a major stepping stone towards the Melbourne Cup for his staying mare Zanbagh.
Zanbagh has drawn barrier six in the Geelong Cup with Michelle Payne to ride, and will be stepping up to the 2400m for the first time this preparation and a good performance will give Payne confidence heading towards the Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington on November 4.
“If she can win or run a place then that’s great but I just want a pleasing run and if she looks like she’ll be competitive in the Melbourne Cup then we’ll go for it,” Patrick Payne told Racing.com.
Zanbagh has had three runs this campaign over unsuitable distances with heavy weights and Payne is looking forward to getting the Bernardini mare up to the 2400m with a lightweight on her back.
“This is the first time she comes down in the weights and she’s not a big mare so I’m really looking forward to running her on Wednesday with 54 on her back,” Payne said.
“It looks a good barrier because it gives you a bit of leeway to go forward or to tuck in somewhere. She does have pretty good gate speed for a staying horse.”
Zanbagh will drop to the minimum weight of 54kgs in the Geelong Cup after carrying 57kgs at her last three runs, the latest when third to Commanding Time in the $100,000 Ryan & McNulty Sawmillers Benalla Cup (2046m) at Benalla on October 5.
While under the care of the late Guy Walter, Zanbagh showed enormous staying potential with a second to Kirramosa in the Group 1 $1m Crown Oaks (2500m) at Flemington during last year’s Spring Carnival and followed that up with a second in the Group 1 $1m Seven News Australian Oaks (2400m) at Randwick during the Sydney Autumn Carnival splitting Rising Romance and Lucia Valentina.
The form has stuck true with Rising Romance and Lucia Valentina running second and third behind Japanese stayer Admire Rakti in last Saturday’s Group 1 $3m Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield.
But Payne elected to bypass the Caulfield Cup and was happy to head to the country for the Benalla Cup then onto the Geelong Cup.
“The Geelong Cup looks a nice race for her, the Caulfield Cup isn’t an easy race for them it can often be a bit of a smash ‘n’ bash so we just thought we would take the easier route to the Melbourne Cup,” Payne said.
“We thought after Benalla that she was going like a genuine stayer, on firm ground they’re just out-sprinting her at the 800.”
In an open betting race Zanbagh is marked at $7 in the Geelong Cup at Ladbrokes.com.au with the Robert Smerdon trained former New Zealand stayer More Than Sacred the $5 favourite ahead of the topweight Sertorius at $5.50, Marksmanship at $6 and Caravan Rolls On also a $7 chance.
And in early Melbourne Cup betting Zanbagh is rated as one of the outsiders of the field and is marked at the healthy odds of $51.