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Local Melbourne hoop Mark Zahra has picked up an eleventh hour 2016 Cox Plate ride aboard the French raider Vadamos after Joao Moreira was ruled out of the race.
The ‘Magic Man’ Moreira is grounded in Hong Kong by Typhoon Haima, the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) disallowing the Brazilian jockey to leave the country.
The decision was made on Thursday afternoon, the HKJC believing the risk Moreira would not make it back for Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting too high.
“There was a deal of uncertainty about whether the jockeys could return to ride at our Sha Tin meeting on Sunday, where there is group racing,” HKJC licencing steward Steve Railton said in a statement.
“With the support of Racing Victoria we delayed the decision to maximise the chances of getting the riders to Melbourne, but airlines are already publishing the possibility of delays and cancellations of flights, so letting them go would be a risk that the club was not prepared to take.
“Our jockey ranks are limited due to recent suspensions and injuries to jockeys and the chance of losing two of our top riders would have significant implications for owners and trainers and also for betting.”
Also ruled out of a trip to Melbourne from Hong Kong is Sam Clipperton who was to ride the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained English in Friday night’s $1 million Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley.
Replacing both hoops across the Cox Plate Carnival is Zahra.
Zahra chases his first placing from three rides in the $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) this Saturday after picking up the mount on the Andre Fabre-trained Vadamos.
“I think we will finalise it this morning, Mark Zahra is ready on stand-by and in all likelihood we will confirm Mark this morning,” co-owner John Camilleri told Racing Victoria from Werribee on Friday morning just before stewards confirmed the ride at 10am (AEDT).
“We were chuffed to get Damien [Oliver] on board, he has ridden in the Cox Plate 20 times, but then he got his suspension.
“Andre Fabre then wanted to get Joao Moreira, we got him and that seemed a good move but then the typhoon didn’t play in our favour, so he got ruled out on Thursday.”
Jumping from barrier two in the 10-horse Cox Plate field dominated by odds-on favourite Winx ($1.80), the Monsun stallion is rated a $17 chance of scoring an upset in the Australasian weight-for-age championship.
Vadamos debuts down under in the Cox Plate, his latest run producing a Group 1 Moulin De Longchamp (1600m) win in France on September 11.
Fellow owner Andreas Putsch, also in Melbourne to watch Vadamos take on Australia’s best racehorse Winx on Saturday, said he would leave things up to Zahra in the Cox Plate in regard to race tactics despite speculations Vadamos would be ridden forward.
“You always have to leave it up to the jockey, they have to feel it, I don’t believe in too strict instructions to the jockey, he can roll from everywhere,” he said.
“He will like the ground, he doesn’t like soft ground and the jockey will have to decide what to do.”
Four-year-old Encosta De Lago mare English meanwhile takes on 10 rivals in the Manikato Stakes tonight.
She and Zahra jump from barrier nine, a barrier that last produced a winner just two years ago in Lankan Rupee (2014).
Zahra is also yet to ride a Manikato Stakes champ and takes to the saddle of All Aged Stakes winner English for the first time.
She is third-up for the season and was last seen running just 1.4 lengths away fourth to Takedown in Sydney’s Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) on October 1.
English has good form around the reigning Manikato Stakes winner and $2.50 favourite Chautauqua however having ran third to he and fellow rival tonight, runner-up Fell Swoop, in the TJ Smith Stakes during ‘The Championships’.
Check out the updated Manikato Stakes betting markets and 2016 Cox Plate odds online now at Ladbrokes.com.au.
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