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Shaune Ritchie’s smart Kiwi mare Zurella is set to kick off her Caulfield Cup 2012 campaign down under on Saturday week at Flemington, the daughter of Zabeel to fly to Victoria next week to join fellow Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival hopeful Miss Artistic.
A dual Group winner at home in New Zealand Zurella was last seen coming within a nose of Miss Artistic in the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) when the two classy stablemates went stride for stride over the final 200-metres in the mile and a half classic back in March.
The dynamic duo is due to face each other again first-up for the spring in the $220,000 Group 2 Let’s Elope Stakes (1400m) at Flemington on September 9.
“They’re great pals from way back and finished alongside each other in the New Zealand Oaks, well clear of the third placegetter,” Ritchie said.
“(The Let’s Elope Stakes is) a good race for them to kick off in and under the set weights and penalties conditions they should be well suited.”
Darci Brahma four-year-old Miss Artistic, who races under the name Artistic at home, has been enjoying the warmer weather in Oz since May when she was sent over for the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival.
Muddy track conditions hampered her attempt at securing the NZ – Queensland Oaks double at the end of her winter campaign however when she only managed to finish 11 lengths away 10th to Quintessential in the Eagle Farm feature on a Heavy (10) track on June 2.
Miss Artistic travels to Melbourne separately next week after pleasing Ritchie with a third place finish in a 1020m Doomben barrier trial back on August 21, the Group 1 winner having stayed on in Queensland over her break.
“I left her in the care of Toby Edmonds at the Gold Coast and he had her in superb order for the trial,” Ritchie said.
“She had a nice cruisy trial and although she’s not a big, gross mare she looks well and had great cover across her rib cage which is exactly what I wanted to see.”
While hopeful of a big spring preparation from Miss Artistic Ritchie is also aware of the effects a testing three-year-old season like the one she had can have and said he would monitor her progress carefully over the coming weeks.
“With Artistic I’ll play it by ear and assess her after she runs in the Let’s Elope,” he said.
“I’m mindful that she had a busy season in New Zealand during the summer and a bottoming run in the Queensland Oaks on a very heavy track.”
The plans for Zurella meanwhile are much more focused, Ritchie confirming the $2.65 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 20 was her main aim.
Ritchie said that they would look to get her up the order of entry and earn a spot in the 2012 Caulfield Cup field via a win in race such as the $150,000 Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on September 22 or the $220,000 Group 2 Herbert Power Stakes (2400m) at the same track on October 13 – both of which offer a Caulfield Cup ballot exemption to the winner.
“The goal with Zurella is the Caulfield Cup and I’m hoping to sneak her in via the Naturalism or Herbert Power Stakes, which are ballot-free races,” he confirmed.
Zurella is currently rated a $41 chance in the Caulfield Cup odds at bookmaker.com.au, a price that is sure to come in if she wins the Let’s Elope.
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