Deagon trainer Pat Duff is convinced the successful recent form of his exciting grey Steel Zip is due to his association with jockey Jeff Lloyd who retains the ride for the 2015 Lough Neagh Stakes this weekend at Doomben.
One of two runners in Saturday’s $175,000 Listed Jones Retail Lough Neagh Stakes (1350m) for Duff along with outside hope Abu Ben Adam, Canadian Silver eight-year-old Steel Zip comes into the clash in top form.
Racing in career best condition despite his age, the veteran has won four of his past five starts dating back to August including his past three on the trot at Doomben Racecourse where he returns chasing more black-type success on Saturday.
Lloyd first rode the galloper back in June for a second at the Sunshine Coast before getting back on board for Steel Zip’s first win in over 12 months when guiding him to victory over 1350 on August 22.
He has been aboard in his four subsequent starts with the only loss being a second to Cum Dividend on August 22.
“I think booking Jeff Lloyd for him has been the key to him racing so well this campaign,” Duff told AAP this week.
“Jeff is at him the whole time to keep his mind on the job.”
Last time out Steel Zip narrowly held off Top Tone to win the Listed Keith Noud Handicap (1200m) and Duff is hoping he can thrive again despite being kept out of the Group 3 George Moore Stakes lead-up.
Not wanting to push the ageing racehorse, Duff has nursed Steel Zip along this campaign and took him to a Deagon trial at home over 1000m on December first to keep him ticking along.
“I felt they might have been a bit sharp for him at the 1200 metres in the George Moore and that is how it turned out,” he explained.
“The trial topped him off nicely.”
Steel Zip ran fifth behind Whiskey Allround in the hit-out, doing enough to please Duff.
A final field of 11 face off in the Lough Neagh Stakes, jumping as Doomben Race 8 at 4:17pm (local), and Steel Zip is drawn in barrier six going up one kilo from his Keith Noud weight to 58kg.
The latest Lough Neagh Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au are led by Magic Millions-bound mare Peace Force ($4) and the Peter Moody-trained Stratum five-year-old Weinholt who Glen Boss rides from gate four, the $4.20 second elect coming off a Ballarat win from November 21.
Steel Zip is also at single figures in the markets at $7.50, while stablemate Abu Ben Adam is at the opposite end of betting as the $101 roughie shot of the bunch.
Duff’s Murtajill five-year-old is another grey but doesn’t boast lead-up form anywhere near as good as Steel Zip.
His last victory was at the Sunshine Coast back in late April before well beaten runs including the disappointing first-up display at Doomben on November 28 when 10th behind fellow Lough Neagh Stakes hope Saluter.
Like Steel Zip, who targets the $1 million Magic Millions Cup (1400m) at the Gold Coast on January 9, Abu Ben Adam is also set for a Magic Millions Day assignment next month if the form warrants it.
“He is a horse which builds into a campaign but this time I trialled him twice before his first-up run when the pattern of the day’s racing didn’t suit him,” Duff said.
“He is eligible for a couple of races on Millions day but he will have to show us something as well as earning more prize money before we decide which way to go.”
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