South Australian Derby hopefuls Zabeelionaire and Strike The Stars are locked in a tight battle for favouritism heading into Saturday’s Group 1 clash at Morphettville.
The Leon Corstens trained Zabeelionaire scored his second career victory when an easy winner over Chieftain Jack in the Eastern Bridge Plate (2000m) for three year olds at Caulfield on April 21.
The Zabeel colt has come up with barrier one and will have the services of Melbourne Cup winning jockey Damien Oliver who is searching for his first win in the 2500m $500,000 classic.
In the latest betting Zabeelionaire is at $4.30, narrowly ahead of the Anthony Cummings trained Strike The Stars at $4.40.
Cummings is chasing back to back South Australian Derbys after winning the race last year with Shadows In The Sun and is pleased with the recovery of the Savabeel three year old after a gruelling fourth in the Group 1 $1.5m David Jones Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on April 14.
Strike The Stars was shipped back to Melbourne after the Australian Derby and new race jockey Dwayne Dunn was pleased with a solid work out at Caulfield during the week, as was Cummings.
“His work since the derby has been excellent,” Cummings said.
“He recovers extremely well from his races and I think he has to be among the top three chances.”
The winner of only one race, the Group 3 $120,000 Gloaming Stakes (1800m) at Rosehill in September last year, Strike The Stars has finished just behind the placegetters in Group 1 company at his last four starts.
As well as his fourth in the Derby at Randwick, he finished fifth to Laser Hawk in the $500,000 Flinders Lane Rosehill Guineas (2000m) at Rosehill on March 31 and was only beaten two and a half lengths when seventh the start before to Mosheen in the $500,000 Turnpoint Royal Randwick Guineas (1600m) at Randwick on March 17.
Dunn is replacing Craig Williams who has taken up a contract to ride in Japan for two months and is hoping his change of luck sticks with him at Morphettville on Saturday.
Sydney Cup winner Niwot ended a long, frustrating run of minor Group 1 placings over the Sydney Autumn Carnival for Dunn who was runner up on Rekindled Interest in the $400,000 George Ryder at Rosehill as well as filling second spot at Randwick on Polish Knight in the $1.5m Australian Derby and All Too Hard in the $500,000 Sires Produce (1400m).
The Carnival wasn’t all bad and as well as his win in the Sydney Cup, he was successful on All Too Hard in the Group 2 $175,000 Bowermans Office Furniture Pago Pago Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill on March 31.
Strike The Stars has draw well at barrier three and if he can hold his Sydney form will be hard to beat over the testing 2500m at Morpettville.