The sole eastern state based galloper in Saturday’s Kingston Town Classic 2015 field in Perth, Extra Zero shapes up as a genuine hope in the Ascot feature according to jockey Mark Zahra.
On Monday a final field of 16 gallopers was released for this year’s $1 million Group 1 Kingston Town Classic (1800m), the weight-for-age clash the last Group 1 on the 2015 Australian racing calendar.
To wear the number one saddlecloth is veteran Danzero nine-year-old Extra Zero from the Lindsay Park stables of David Hayes & Tom Dabernig in Melbourne.
The warhorse lines up for his incredible 81st career start on Saturday in his maiden run at Ascot Racecourse, Zahra replacing regular rider Michael Walker in the saddle.
It has been a while between drinks for Extra Zero who hasn’t won a race since New Year’s Day over 2000m at Flemington.
He has raced competitively at elite level since however including his brave second when nosed out by Spillway in a photo-finish result in the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) in mid-March during the Melbourne Autumn Racing Carnival at juicy odds.
Fifth to 2015 Hong Kong Vase hopeful Preferment in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) beaten just 1.25 lengths on October 4, he has finished well out of the money in his two most recent runs.
The latest was on Victoria Derby Day on October 31 when 3.85 lengths off the French-trained winner Gailo Chop, who runs in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin Racecourse on December 13, in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m).
He drops back to 1800m this weekend, a distance he has had six runs over previously for a win, one second and a third.
Runner-up to Monaco Consul as a three-year-old in the 2009 Victoria Derby, Extra Zero carries 59kg on the weekend the same as the Mackinnon under the WFA conditions with Zahra aboard for just the second time.
Zahra’s only other ride on the $1.49 million earner was during the 2010 Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival five years ago when eighth behind Harris Tweed in that year’s The Bart Cummings (2500m).
The hoop is looking forward to reuniting with Extra Zero in Perth however in his first Kingston Town Classic ride.
Current Kingston Town Classic odds at Ladbrokes.com.au are led by Germany’s Magic Artist ($4.20) who ran a brave fourth in both the Mackinnon Stakes and the Group 1 Emirates Stakes (1600m) a week apart this Cup Carnival.
Out to become the first ever filly to win the race, the next best fancied at $4.40 for the win is the undefeated Grant Williams-trained Perfect Reflection who Perth’s premier jockey William Pike has opted to stay aboard.
Extra Zero meanwhile is rated a $19 hope in the latest Kingston Town Classic betting markets, an equal price with one of three Daniel Morton-trained hopes in the race, last start Group 2 WA Guineas (1600m) winning three-year-old Man Booker.
While Zahra hasn’t ridden in the Kingston Town Classic before, he is no stranger to Perth racing.
The Melbourne-based hoop started his career in the saddle as an apprentice in WA at Ascot with Dean White.
He currently sits third in the Melbourne Jockeys’ Premiership ranks with 21 winners, the 35-year-old trailing Damien Oliver (23) and Dwayne Dunn (24).
Dunn was originally also set to ride in the feature race of the weekend however last start Railway Stakes runner-up Messene was ruled out of the Kingston Town Classic yesterday leaving him without a mount.
Oliver, who rode 2009 Kingston Town Classic winner Sniper’s Bullet to victory, will get a shot at a second success aboard the favourite Magic Artist.
Zahra and Lindsay Park racing manager Ryan Moore however believe Extra Zero is a genuine hope at an upset at juicy odds having shown track rider Tara Clegg plenty of form since arriving in WA on November 15.
“Tara tells me she is rapt at how he is going,” Moore told The West Australian.
“Peter Knuckey worked a horse in a gallop alongside him last week. He was so impressed by the horse’s work his racing manager Kyle Nowland rang me for the ride.
“Magic Artist gave terrific runs in the Mackinnon and the Emirates Stakes a week apart.
“He ran fourth in the Mackinnon and our horse ran seventh, not far away.
“Extra Zero’s run to finish fifth to Preferment in the Turnbull was excellent and he did run a close second in this year’s Australian Cup. I don’t usually have a bet, but I think I will here at those odds.”
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