Group One aim for Zabeel sprinter-miler

10 Dec 2016

Despite knowing the result of Saturday's open sprint at Awapuni, Matamata trainer Stephen Autridge admitted he still held his breath watching a replay of the race 24 hours later.

Autridge was keen to relive the return to winning form of former top three-year-old Chambord, who stormed home to capture the 1200m contest.

The now six-year-old Zabeel gelding had overcome a severe leg injury just over two-years ago to make his return to the track last season but had not been seen in the winner's enclosure in the interim.

Some outstanding trackwork had Autridge keen on his charge's chances prior to the race, with those thoughts looking right on the money as rider Michael McNab had Chambord tackling the leaders halfway down the Awapuni straight. A split-second later carnage nearly ensued as the wayward Speech Craft drifted hard to his right when making his challenge and collided with the rapidly closing Chambord.

Thankfully disaster was averted as the two cannoned off each other with Chambord's superior momentum allowing him to edge past Speech Craft and grab the victory.

"Wow that was rough," said Autridge after viewing the video again.

"It looked for a minute like we would have to settle for second as the runner-up had a decent break on us but when he rolled out it nearly ended up in tears for both of us.

"Thankfully we kept up a strong gallop despite the bump but I'm picking Michael got a decent fright when he saw that other horse heading straight for him."

Autridge, who prepares the Zabeel gelding with Jamie Richards at Te Akau Racing's Matamata base, was delighted to see the 2013 Gr.1 2000 Guineas runner-up finally get another win on the board for the team.

"He really is a gutsy horse given he broke a leg two years ago," he said.

"To come back and do what he has done says a lot for his courage and ability. While he didn't win a race in his last prep he went some very good races and he has come back this time in superb order.

"He has been working well of late so I thought he could definitely run in the money on Saturday. That win is very satisfying and should set him up for a good campaign now."

Autridge believes the gelding will be at his best when stepped up to a 1600m with the Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile at Ellerslie on New Year's Day an option along with the Gr.1 Harcourts Thorndon Mile at Trentham on 28 January. ? NZ Racing Desk