Co-trainer Simon Zahra is confident the return to Flemington’s famous straight six track will be key to Durendal winning first-up in the Bobbie Lewis Quality on Saturday.
For five-year-old son of Medaglia D’Oro is prepared locally by Zahra and his cousin Mathew Ellerton, and is one of 12 sprinters engaged for this season’s $200,000 Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Quality (1200m).
The Makybe Diva Stakes Day showdown is Durendal’s first assignment since a fourth over the track and distance on May 21 when beaten under a length by the winner Nautical in the Listed Straight Six (1200m).
His other two latest runs at Flemington produced back-to-back summer wins including in the Group 3 Standish Handicap (1200m) on New Year’s Day.
In total he boasts six wins and two thirds over the distance, and he is two-from-three over the 1200m at Flemington.
These are good stats according to Zahra who is keen to see how Durendal performs fresh from his mid-field barrier six draw, with improvement to come once he returns to peak fitness.
“He just had the one run in the winter to tick him over,” Zahra told Racing Victoria.
“He should improve a fair bit off it – he’s still a touch tubby.
“It looks a nice, strong race, but the horse loves the straight.
“When you get to the 100 ratings, this [class of rivals] is what you’re going to run into all spring.
“We haven’t got him fully wound up, but he’s fresh and his straight form’s pretty good.”
Durendal has just the one third place finish from four previous first-up runs, but after carting 59.5kg from barrier 15 of 17 in his last run back in the winter, the better barrier and notable drop back to the 53kg minimum on Saturday will be a big advantage.
Durendal has Katelyn Mallyon booked for the ride, the Bobbie Lewis just her second start aboard the sprinter after a Caulfield win by two lengths back in May of 2015.
He is currently rated only a $19 chance in Bobbie Lewis Quality betting at Ladbrokes.com.au with markets led by Xtravagant ($4.20) and Under The Louvre ($4.60).
Kiwi raider Xtravagant is first-up for Matamata training duo Stephen Autridge & Jamie Richards, this just his second run in Australia after a failed eighth to Palentino in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) last March.
The now four-year-old Pentire stallion is a dual Group 1 winner in New Zealand and also won his latest start, a Group 3 over 1200m at Te Rapa.
The Robert Smerdon-trained Excellent Art six-year-old Under The Louvre is second-up this campaign following his win in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) in Brisbane back in June.
His resuming run produced a close second when under a half-length away second to Redzel at Caulfield in the Group 3 The Heath (1100m).
The step-up to 1200m will suit as he has strong form over the distance (14-6-2-4), but the 59kg top weight and wide barrier 10 draw give hoop Dwayne Dunn work to do as the horse looks to improve on his second to Churchill Dancer in last year’s Bobbie Lewis.