Local Eagle Farm-based trainer Kelso Wood has his fingers crossed that his promising mare Zero Rock can produce a robust run at Eagle Farm this weekend and qualify for Saturday week’s $1 million Stradbroke Handicap.
Five-year-old Danzero mare Zero Rock, a winner of 10 of her 22 starts to date, currently sits 31st on the ballot order for the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) and will miss out on a start in Queensland’s richest sprint feature unless she wins at Eagle Farm this Saturday.
Wood has entered her for the $200,000 Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes (1400m), one of the quality black-type features on the Queensland Oaks Day card.
The race is a last-chance opportunity to earn eligibility for the Stradbroke and Zero Rock will face some stiff competition.
“She’s close to getting into the Stradbroke and we’ll know after Saturday whether she will make it,” Wood said.
In the current Stradbroke Handicap markets Zero Rock is rated a $26 chance of upsetting the favourites, odds lead by the ultra consistent Sincero ($4.80) and Doomben 10,000 winner Beaded ($5).
First-up this season Zero Rock ran a disappointing sixth to Buffering in the Group 2 Victory Stakes (1200m) at Eagle Farm on April 30, but showed much improvement last start.
On May 21 at Doomben she came within a long-neck of Kanzan in the Group 3 Glenlogan Park Stakes (1350m) relishing the step up in distance.
“It was a great run and she’s worked well since then,” Wood said.
Gun hoop Chris Munce, the regular rider of Zero Rock this year, further boosted Wood’s confidence to press onto the Stradbroke with the mare after he said she would have gotten over Kanzan in the Glenlogan if she hadn’t had to overcome a horror double-digit gate.
“She was never closer than three deep after starting from barrier 15,” Munce said.
Kelso is confident over the 1400m on Saturday Zero Rock can hit top form, as she has twice started over the distance when second in both the 2010 and 2011 Magic Millions Cup at the Gold Coast.
Although he would not normally consider running Zero Rock on successive Saturdays, if she earns a spot in the Stradbroke field Kelso would happily break with traditional in the hopes of a million dollar pay day.
“She’s running in the Dane Ripper on Saturday and I normally wouldn’t back her up a week later but it is a Stradbroke.”
Meanwhile, the Stradbroke price on smart Mossman four-year-old Love Conquers All has firmed right in to $5.50 following their eye-catching run at Doomben last Saturday.
The Hawkes-trained galloper recorded his third straight Group 1 second place finish, coming within a nose of Beaded in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 (1350m).
Although frustrated with the string of minor elite level placings from Love Conquers All, connections may be celebrating Saturday week.
Bred and owned by Glenlogan Park Stud, Love Conquers All has mirrored the successful Stradbroke Handicap campaign of dual winner Black Piranha back in 2009.
Like Black Piranha, Love Conquers All has run second in the George Ryder Stakes, Doncaster Mile and Doomben 10,000 this year.
Black Piranha, who will vie for an unprecedented third straight Stradbroke win this year, went on in 2009 to score a strong victory over Danleigh in the Stradbroke that year and connections will be hoping Love Conquers All can emulate Black Piranha Saturday week.
“Hopefully Love Conquers All can go one better for us in the Stradbroke,” Glenlogan’s Steve Morley said.
Glenlogan Stud will also be represented in the Stradbroke this year by the Robert Heathcote-trained Woorim, winner of the Group 3 BRC Sprint (1350m) at Doomben last start.
“We also have Woorim in the race, so maybe we can run one-two,” Morley said.
Woorim sits one line behind Love Conquers All in Stradbroke betting paying $7.50.