The Caulfield Cup 2014 campaign of Patrick Payne’s recent stable edition Zanbagh begins at Moonee Valley on Saturday with the mare to race first-up in a 1500m handicap.
It will be a low key return for the former Guy Walter-trained daughter of Bernardini who is in her first preparation for Plumpton-based Payne.
The now four-year-old is a dual Group 1 Oaks runner-up and is on track for another shot at an elite level win, this time against an open field during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
Last spring she made an ambitious black-type debut going form a five length fillies-and-mares’ handicap win over 2000m at Ballarat into the Group 1 Crown Oaks (2500m) at Flemington during the Cup Carnival.
Making an immediate impact she ran a long neck away second to Kirramosa before being turned out for a spell.
During the autumn her form was hit-and-miss early but did include a Group 3 win at Kembla Grange over the mile ahead of her second Oaks run.
That came on April 19 at Randwick in the Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m), Zanbagh finishing second best again this time a length off Kiwi raider Rising Romance.
A stable transfer followed and now Zanbagh returns ahead of her second spring preparation with nominations already in for all the majors.
While the Cox Plate is an option, Payne said her primary target was the $3 million Group 1 Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup (2400m) on October 18.
Australian Oaks winner Rising Romance leads the early Caulfield Cup betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au paying $15 while Zanbagh is at a more generous $21.
She geared up for her return in a race chock full of Spring Cup hopes with an easy Tuesday morning gallop at Moonee Valley giving her an early look at the track she races on for the first time this weekend.
Payne ran her alongside stablemate Up The Creek over 1000m that they ran in a leisurely 1:08.74 including the final 400m in 26.98 seconds to finish off duo’s pre-race preparations.
“She wasn’t there to run any time, but she looked to work pretty well to the eye,” Payne told Racing Victoria speaking of his Group 1 performer.
“Basically I just wanted to get her out of the house for the day. The trip away is part of their training exercise and when you do that you don’t need to gallop them as quickly I find.”
He’s not expecting too much of her on Saturday, instead expecting improvement as she gets out further in distance over the coming months, but still expects her to be competitive over the 1500m.
“She’s very forward, she’s definitely not behind, but she’s not screwed down to run well first-up,” Payne said.
“We thought if we ran her over 1200 or 1400, they might just run her off her feet a bit and that just drags the guts out of them a bit.
“If she goes into a 1500-metre race she can get into her comfort zone, travel well and be competitive. They seem to pull up better that way, too.”
Among the other more notable nominations taken for the open handicap are Macedon Lodge’s Sea Moon allocated the 64kg top weight who also worked at Moonee Valley this morning, Chris Waller’s import Our Voodoo Prince and Colin Little’s Caulfield Cup hope Text’n Hurley who is undefeated at Moonee Valley.
Payne puts Steven Arnold on Zanbagh on Saturday and has her second-up run scheduled as a 1600m Moonee Valley race on September 6.
A step up in class will then follow on September 20 at Caulfield with a run in the Group 3 Naturalism Stakes (2000m) that offers a Caulfield Cup ballot exemption to the winner.
“That’s an important race for her, third-up over 2000,” Payne said.
“That’s an exempt-free race for the Caulfield Cup and it will tell us if she’s going well enough anyway.”
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