Local Eagle Farm-based trainer Kelso Wood has today confirmed consistent Sydney jockey Tim Clark has been booked to ride his smart mare Zero Rock in Saturday’s $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m).
Five-year-old Danzero mare Zero Rock has had three runs this prep, her two most recent producing back-to-back Group second placings.
On May 21 she came within half a length of the Peter Snowden-trained Kanzan in the Group 3 Glenlogan Park Stakes (1350m), a brave effort after jumping from a wide barrier 15 draw and being forced to race wide throughout.
Last Saturday Wood gave Zero Rock her final Stradbroke lead-up where she put in another strong effort to finish three quarters of a length second behind Hurtle Myrtle in the Group 2 Dane Ripper Stakes over the Stradbroke distance of 1400m.
Wood verified that he would be accepting Zero Rock to back-up this Saturday after she pulled through her Dane Ripper run well.
Despite her good recent form and the fact Zero Rock has finished second in all three of her starts over 1400m, her two other runs at the distance being in the 2010 and 2011 Gold Coast Magic Millions Cup, she is rated only a $31 chance in the current Stradbroke Handicap markets.
“Her critics say she can’t run 1400 metres but that’s rubbish,” Wood stated.
“She had to lead last run and the winner (Hurtle Myrtle) got a cosy run.”
Saturday will be the first time Clark has partnered with the progressive Zero Rock, the mare having been ridden by Chris Munce in her seven latest runs.
Munce, however, is unavailable to continue his association with the mare as he is already engaged to ride multiple Group 1 performer Love Conquers All in the Stradbroke showdown.
Zero Rock is allocated just 51kg for the Stradbroke, which will be taken to 52kg with weights rising by 1kg at acceptance stage due to the withdrawal of Hay List, the lightweight presenting a problem for Wood when he started searching for a jockey to replace Munce.
“Everyone I tried either couldn’t make the weight or they had a ride,” Wood said.
Clark had the ride aboard former Stradbroke favourite Sincero last Saturday in the Group 2 QTC Cup where the gun three-year-old could only manage to finish 11th beaten over four and a half lengths by upset winner Varenna Miss.
The jockey was originally engaged to ride the Joseph Pride-trained Ladys Angel in the Stradbroke on Saturday.
Connections of Arena four-year-old Ladys Angel, however, released Clark from his contract as the mare looks unlikely to gain a start in Queensland’s richest sprint sitting 25th on the Stradbroke ballot.
Jason Taylor has been confirmed as the rider for Sincero, if the Stephen Farley-trained colt is able to sneak into the capacity 18-starter Stradbroke Handicap field.
Sincero currently sits 21st on the Stradbroke order of entry and after their failed run in the QTC Cup has blown out to $8.50 in the markets.
Despite not having the advantage of a big time stable behind him back home in Sydney, Clark has been in career best form this season.
Currently the hoop sits on 55 ½ city wins including dual Group 1 victories having ridden Atomic Force to victory in The Galaxy and also having been aboard Sacred Choice for their Doncaster Mile success.
Clark has a special affiliation with Queensland, the state his maiden elite level win came in when he rode the late, great Hot Danish for her 2010 Doomben 10,000 win.
While Wood is pleased with Zero Rock’s form and fitness, he has his fingers crossed that she draws favourably when the starting positions for the Stradbroke are released tomorrow.
“She’s come through the run (the Dane Ripper) very well and I’m really happy with her but I’d like a good barrier,” he said.
“The barrier is going to be crucial.
“I wanted to ride her back in the field in her last two runs but be weren’t able to.”
The top three fancies for the Stradbroke are the horses that ran the trifecta in the Doomben 10,000.
Winner Beaded leads the way at $5.50, followed by Love Conquers All at $6 and defending dual Stradbroke Handicap champion Black Piranha at $6.50.