Newcastle horseman Kris Lees is hoping that with jockey Larry Cassidy reuniting with his mare Zingaling for tomorrow’s Tattersall’s Tiara, the talented four-year-old can give the favourites a run for their money in the closing Group 1 race of the season.
Peter Snowden’s magnificently consistent mare Beaded, winner of the Group 1 Doomben 10,000 two starts back, will start odds-on favourite in the $500,000 Group 1 Tattersall’s Tiara (1400m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday.
While Lees’ daughter of Redoute’s Choice Zingaling is only rated a $26 chance of claiming an upset, the trainer remains quietly confident she will be right up there in the finish.
Zingaling has been cruising along in fine style this prep having started five times including her first-up win in the Group 3 Birthday Card Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill on March 26.
Following the Birthday Card Stakes, Cassidy again rode Zingaling when she finished just over a length away fourth behind fellow Tatt’s Tiara rival Hurtle Myrtle in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on Derby Day.
Two more eye-catching fourth place finishes were to follow, Hugh Bowman taking over the riding duties on Zingaling when she came within two lengths of winner Kanzan in the Listed The Darley Crown (1300m) at Hawkesbury on April 30 and then a length of Shannara in the Listed Dark Jewel Classic (1400m) at Scone last month.
At her most recent run heading into her tough Tiara assignment, Zingaling finished in the money when one and a half lengths back third from another mare she will face off against tomorrow, Varenna Miss, in the Group 2 QTC Cup (1300m) at Eagle Farm on June 4.
Her QTC Cup performance was a brave one as Zingaling jumped from barrier 14 of 16 and also suffered interference in the running when ridden by apprentice hoop Timothy Bell.
“She jumped a bit slow and copped some interference at the 900 metres,” Lees said of her last-start.
“Tim (Bell) thought she should have finished closer had she got a clear run and she was only beaten 1 – 1 ½ lengths.”
It wasn’t enough, however, for her to get into Queensland’s richest race.
Lees admitted that had Zingaling been able to win the QTC Cup, he would have happily backed her up a week later in the $1 million Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m), a race Tiara favourite Beaded finished a devastatingly close second behind winner Sincero in.
“Had she qualified for the Stradbroke, we would have started her,” Lees confirmed.
On Saturday she comes back after a three week break, Zingaling fresh and ready to show her form when jumping from barrier eight; Lees attempting to win his maiden Tattersall’s Tiara.
“I’ve decided to put Larry (Cassidy) on her this time,” Lees said.
“I’ve had a lot of luck with him over the years.”
Having saddled up a number of chances in the fillies’ and mares’ classic over the years, Lees closest success in the race formerly known as the Winter Stakes came with More Than Ready mare Fritz’s Princess who ran second behind 2008 Winter Stakes winner Absolut Glam.
Cassidy and Lees go a long way back, Cassidy having enjoyed a successful association riding for Lees’ late father and fellow trainer Max Lees.
“I rode a lot of winners for Max when I was in Sydney,” Cassidy reminisced.
“When Max died and Kris took over I kept riding for the stable and continued to ride winners for the stable.”
Cassidy is also experienced in the Tatt’s Tiara having ridden a winner in the feature before, albeit back in 1996 with the Clarry Conners-trained Tripping.
“I won the Winter Stakes on Tripping for Clarry Conners when it was a Group Three race,” Cassidy said.
While not without her claims on Saturday, Zingaling is still a query over the Tiara distance of 1400 metres.
She has had just two attempts over 1400m when fourth in the Dark Jewel Classic and earlier when finishing dead last behind Happy Hippy in the 2010 Listed James HB Carr Stakes at last year’s Sydney Autumn Carnival.
“I’ve still got a little question mark over her at 1400 metres,” Lees said.
“Her fourth at Scone was a good run but she died on her run in the last 50 metres.”
Win, lose or draw tomorrow, Zingaling will head to the paddock for a spell before being bought back for the spring.
“Her owners have decided she’ll race on for another season so she’ll go for a break after Saturday and prepare for the spring in Sydney and maybe Melbourne,” Lees said.
Zingaling had two Sydney Spring runs last year and one start during the 2010 Melbourne Spring Carnival when she ran third to Status Symbol in the Listed Crown Promenade Stakes (1100m) at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day.