Top Flemington trainer Michael Moroney is looking for a good first-up performance from his smart stayer Shenzhou Steeds when they resume in Saturday’s Makybe Diva Stakes at their home track, the former Kiwi galloper heading towards the 2012 Caulfield Cup this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Last time out the now five-year-old Ishiguru gelding scored a devastatingly seven length victory in the Caloundra Cup over the mile and a half in the mud, the win completing a Queensland winter cups double following their earlier success in the Ipswich Cup.
“He didn’t beat much at Caloundra but he has a few things against him and the margin was terrific so we were ecstatic with that effort,” Moroney said of Shenzhou Steed’s last run.
“He had a few things against him. He went up 4kg in weight, it was an extremely heavy track and had never been to 2400-metres before.”
Having started their career in New Zealand under Tony Pike and Mark Donoghue, Shenzhou Steeds joined Kiwi expat Moroney down under mid-way through last year.
It proved a successful move as the horse won their opening three starts for their new trainer in Queensland, including the Sunshine Coast Guineas as a three-year-old.
Continuing to impress as they were stepped up in distance, Shenzhou Steeds is now a genuine hope of making one of the country’s major staying showdowns – the $2.65 million Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) on Saturday October 20.
They are scheduled to return to racing after a two month break this Saturday having been nominated for three races at Flemington.
First-up options for the Caulfield Cup hope include the $120,000 Listed The Sofietel (1400m), the $80,000 Sofitel Girls’ Day Out Handicap (2000m) and the meeting’s headline race – the $300,000 Group 2 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
The 2012 Makybe Diva Stakes certainly looks the most testing of the three races with big name entries including Peter Moody’s autumn revolution Manighar, the returning December Draw, reigning Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed and NZ Oaks winner Miss Artistic littering the nominations.
Moroney has confirmed Shenzhou Steed’s Ipswich Cup – Caloundra Cup winning hoop Eddie Wilkinson will reunite with them on Saturday, with the mile looking the preferred option.
“I wasn’t sure whether he could cope physically with getting into the spring but he has become stronger with the trip to Queensland and a short break,” Moroney said.
“He had some residual fitness when he arrived back in Melbourne and is ready to go to the 1600-metres this week.”
Following this weekend Moroney is looking at the $150,000 Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) at Caulfield on September 22 for Shenzhou Steeds second-up, a good performance in which will give the green light to continue on with Caulfield Cup plans.
“We figure Shenzhou Steeds is going to be weighted around 52kg for the Caulfield Cup,” Moroney explained.
“That would make him borderline to get into the field.
“The Naturalism winner is exempt from the ballot for the Caulfield Cup.
“Shenzhou Steeds might surprise a few. We’ll know more after Saturday.”
In the latest Caulfield Cup betting markets meanwhile Shenzhou Steeds is a $51 roughie, a price equal with the likes of other Makybe Diva Stakes nominee Zabeelionaire.
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