Trainer David Hayes is confident that Zululand is primed for the 2014 Champagne Stakes at Royal Randwick on Saturday and can become the first Fastnet Rock colt to win a Group 1 event as a two-year-old.
Zululand stamped himself as a colt to watch with an impressive victory in the Group 2 VRC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on March 8 and ran home strongly from the back of the field to finish fifth in the Group 1 ATC Sires Produce Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on April 12.
Hayes told RSN this morning that Zululand did not handle the wet surface in the Sires Produce Stakes, but said that the two-year-old had taken plenty of benefit of the run and was going into the 2014 Champagne Stakes in excellent condition.
“He didn’t handle it (the wet conditions), but he still managed to run from the 800 into the post the best sectionals for that race,” Hayes said.
“I know that Gerald Ryan’s (Peggy Jean) horse was very impressive, but from the position that he started he ran home faster.
“He was a little bit unlucky not to run third in it.
“Steve said that he was happy in the ground, but was very honest and just worked hard through it.
“We put him in the Sires with no run between the VRC Sires and the AJC Sires with the view to peak him in this race.
“Hopefully we have him at his absolute peak and he has definitely improved from that race.”
Zululand will be stepping up to a mile for the first time in his racing career on Saturday, but Hayes is confident that the two-year-old will relish the step-up in trip.
Hayes believes that the Fastnet Rock colt will be proficient over even more ground during the 2014 Spring Racing Carnival, but is hoping that the Coolmore-owned juvenile can stamp himself as a valuable stallion prospect with a win in the Champagne Stakes this weekend.
“Absolutely and 2000 metres next year,” Hayes said when asked if Zululand would get the trip in the Champagne Stakes.
“He is a well-bred colt and if he can be a Group 1 winner he would be the first Fastnet Rock colt to win at Group 1 level at two.
“He has a bit at stake and he will be racing for more than the $400,000 or $500,000 in this race.”
Hayes is chasing his first win in the Champagne Stakes after finishing second with Miss Finland in the 2006 edition of the race.