New trainer Patrick Payne has declared his recent stable acquisition Zanbagh as the “ideal Caulfield Cup horse” ahead of the mare’s new season debut in Melbourne Saturday week.
The now four-year-old daughter of Bernardini was formerly prepared by the late great Guy Walter.
Walter’s shock death earlier this year however forced connections of the dual Oaks runner-up to change stables moving her into Payne’s care at his Rockbank property in rural Melbourne.
A big Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival is now on the agenda for Zanbagh who will be aimed at the $3 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18.
“We think she’s an ideal Caulfield Cup horse. With the way she’s rated at the moment and the way the weight scale is, it should suit her,” Payne told AAP this week.
Having twice run second in a Group 1 Oaks race, she’s at a nice price through Australian bookmaker Ladbrokes in their early Caulfield Cup markets at $41.
Whether she progresses enough to earn a Caulfield Cup start though is still questionable, Payne to make the call three runs into her new season campaign when she’s back up in Group company.
He has a quiet 1500m handicap at Moonee Valley on August 23 scheduled for her first-up run before another non-stakes race under the same conditions but over 1600m a fortnight later.
From there she will go into the $150,000 Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield Racecourse on September 20 as part of the Underwood Stakes Day action.
“There’s another mile handicap two weeks after that (after the Moonee Valley race) and then two weeks after that is the Naturalism Stakes and that will determine where we go with her,” Payne said.
The Naturalism Stakes winner is exempt from Caulfield Cup ballot and Payne confirmed that should his mare take it out she would definitely be accepting for the world’s richest mile and a half handicap the following month.
“If she was able to win that then she would be showing signs she is a Caulfield Cup horse,” he said.
Last season Mr O’Ceirin won the Naturalism Stakes for local trainer Ciaron Maher.
They were unplaced in their next two runs however when 10th in the Turnbull Stakes behind Happy Trails and 11th in the Caulfield Cup behind Fawkner beaten four lengths in both races.
Zanbagh took four runs to break her maiden status last year but has been on the improve ever since.
After a narrow win at Ballarat over the mile in October she went on to win at the track again this time by a tidy five lengths when stepped up to 2000m living up to her staying pedigree.
It was straight from that 64 rating race to the big time however with Walter making the brave call to take her into the $1 million Crown Oaks (2500m) at Flemington during the famous Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The decision proved to be the correct one though with Zanbagh crossing just a long neck away second behind Kirramosa in the November 7 feature.
She returned in Sydney for the autumn and was competitive again including her Group 3 Keith Nolan Classic (1600m) win at Kembla Grange third-up in March.
Two more elite level runs followed with Zanbagh improving on a fifth to Lucia Valentia in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) on Golden Slipper Day to finish a length away runner-up behind current 2014 Caulfield Cup favourite Rising Romance in the Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) on April 19.
She’s had just the one trial since at Cranbourne on August 4 when eighth over the unsuitably short 990m, Payne ultra-impressed by the condition she came to him in and her smooth temperament.
“Zanbagh is totally undamaged, she’s sound, happy and Guy’s looked after her well. She’s an absolute sweetheart to do anything with,” Payne said.