Zaratone will step up to 1400 metres for just the second time in his racing career in the ATC Membership On Sale Now Handicap at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday and has been given no favors by the handicapper; with the veteran gelding allocated the top-weight of 62.5kg.
In-form apprentice Yusuke Ichikawa has been booked to take the ride on Zaratone and will claim his full three kilograms but the eight-year-old will need to perform at his very best to record his first ever race win over 1400 metres.
Zaratone finished a credible third behind Said Com and Mr Armstrong in the Sydney Markets Limited Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on June 15 earlier this year and trainer Bjorn Baker told Racing Ahead that the Zariz gelding can match that performance this weekend.
“The big question mark is going to 1400 metres,” Baker said.
“He went to 1400 last prep and he ran third so I guess back at Rosehill Gardens he is rock hard fit on the back-up.
“If he can get a soft lead and have a little bit of a kick left he is not without a hope.”
After running in the 1400 metre event at the start of the year Zaratone finished second in the Tab.Com.Au Handicap (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens on July 6 before finishing his campaign with a win in the Alpha Flight Services Handicap (1100m) and Baker is hopeful that the step-up in distance will have the same effect this preparation; with the Listed Takeover Target Stakes (1200m) at Gosford on January 9 and the Listed Canterbury Classic (1100m) on January 24 both on the agenda for the consistent sprinter.
“Last time when he ran over 1400, his two best runs were after when he dropped back so that is probably the plan this time,” Baker said.
Zaratone has performed strongly since returning to the races with a fifth place finish in the Lidoran Group Spring Handicap (1100m); finishing third in the Diamond Beach Handicap (1100m), winning the Listed Starlight Stakes (1100m) and finishing fifth behind Aeronautical in the Listed Razor Sharp Handicap (1150m) at Randwick last weekend.
The Darley duo of Babel ($4.40) and Limes ($4.40) are battling for favoritism in ATC Membership On Sale Now Handicap betting markets and there has been support for Eigelstein ($6), Disciple ($7.50) as well as Territory ($9); with Zaratone rated a $16 chance.