Talented hoop Mark Zahra has been booked to partner Alpine Eagle in the 2015 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington on Saturday.
Trainer Tony McEvoy was under the impression that he had booked Damien Oliver to partner Alpine Eagle throughout the 2015 Spring Racing Carnival, but Oliver made the decision to jump-off the Australian Guineas placegetter in order to ride Fawkner in the Makybe Diva Stakes after he partnered the veteran gelding in an exhibition gallop at Caulfield last weekend.
McEvoy said that he was frustrated that Oliver would not ride Alpine Eagle in the Makybe Diva Stakes this weekend, but he is confident that Zahra can get the job done on the Cox Plate contender.
“I’m disappointed, I thought I had a long-term agreement with him but he’s decided to go elsewhere,” McEvoy told Fairfax.
“I’ve booked Mark Zahra to ride the horse.
“He will do a good job and I’m particularly happy with the way the horse is going.”
Alpine Eagle made his racing debut with a very easy victory in the Wolf Blass Wines Maiden Plate (1117m) at Gawler in May of last year and he was sent to the spelling paddock before he returned to racing with a third place finish at Hawkesbury on August 30.
The High Chaparral entire returned to winning form with a victory at Morphettville on January 24 and he earnt himself a trip to Victoria for the 2015 Melbourne Festival Of Racing when he recorded a dominant five and a half lengths win in the Drink Driving Grow Up Handicap (1600m) at Morphettville on February 14.
Alpine Eagle went into the Group 2 Autumn Classic (1800m) at Caulfield on February 28 as a clear favourite and he looked under pressure a long way from home in the race, but he absolutely exploded in the last 100 metres to stamp himself as a legitimate Australian Guineas contender.
He proved that win was no fluke when he finished a close second behind Wandjina in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington on March 7 and McEvoy sent him to the spelling paddock to give him a break before his 2015 Spring Racing Carnival campaign.
Alpine Eagle returned to the races in the Listed Penny Edition Stakes (1400m) at Morphettville on August 22 and he was settled towards the tail of the field, but showed his explosive turn-of-foot to finish second behind Riziz.
McEvoy has not had a runner in the Makybe Diva Stakes (formerly known as the Craiglee Stakes) since The Hind finished sixth behind Umrum in the 1998 edition of the race.