Horse of the Year-elect Verry Elleegant and the sensational Zaaki are set for a series of compelling weight-for-age clashes that will light up the spring carnival.
The nation’s premier middle distance gallopers are expected to meet for the first time in the Group 1 $1 million George Main Stakes over the famous Royal Randwick 1600m course on September 18.
Then it is likely they could go to either the Group 2 $1 million Hill Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick on October 2 or the Group 1 $500,000 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) at Flemington the same day.
Their final showdown will be in the Group 1 $5 million Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 23.
Verry Elleegant is slightly ahead of Zaaki in her new season preparation with trainer Chris Waller indicating the champion mare is set to barrier trial either on Friday at Warwick Farm or next Tuesday at Royal Randwick.
Waller said Verry Elleegant is getting ready to resume racing in the Group 1 $500,000 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on August 21.
Zaaki only returned to trainer Annabel Neasham’s Warwick Farm stables on Monday and is unlikely to be ready for the Winx Stakes.
Neasham said the comeback race for Zaaki will probably be the Group 2 $200,000 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick on September 2 which then gives the gelding two weeks into the George Main Stakes and a potential showdown with Verry Elleegant.
TAB Fixed Odds have released their first betting market for the George Main Stakes with price assessors unable to split Verry Elleegant and Zaaki, installing them joint favourites at $3.
James McDonald wins the Ranvet on Verry Elleegant. Picture: Jason McCawley – Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“Every race fan has an opinion on who is the better horse, Verry Elleegant or Zaaki,’’ TAB”s Andrew Georgiou said.
“So, when they do clash in the spring, they are going to be fantastic races to watch.
“I think the clash of these two horses will be similar from a punting perspective to when Verry Elleegant and Addeybb met in the Ranvet Stakes and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the autumn. They were both great ‘betting’ races.
“If Verry Elleegant and Zaaki do meet for the first time in the George Main Stakes over the Randwick 1600m, it will be some race. We have them at the top of betting at $3 and will let the punters decide who starts favourite.’’
Group 1 $1 million George Main Stakes (1600m)
Royal Randwick, September 18
$3 Verry Elleegant, Zaaki
$11 Colette, Mo’unga, Probabeel
$15 Cascadian, Hungry Heart, Keiai Nautique, Kolding, Think It Over
Market supplied by TAB Fixed Odds
Meanwhile, Godolphin trainer James Cummings unleashed some of his stable’s main spring carnival contenders including top mare Colette at the Hawkesbury barrier trials session on Monday morning.
Colette, winner of the Golden Eagle, ATC Australian Oaks and more than $5 million prizemoney, was kept under a tight rein when unplaced in her 800m trial.
With jockey Rachel King in the saddle, Colette was taken wide on the turn and cruised home in sixth position, more than three lengths behind Rebukes in a time of 47.21s.
Colette is likely to barrier trial again before resuming in the Winx Stakes. The Godolphin mare is on the third line of early TAB Fixed Odds betting at $8 behind Verry Elleegant, the $2.80 favourite.
Doncaster Mile hero Cascadian, a stablemate of Colette and also prominent in Winx Stakes betting at $15, cruised around in his 800m heat to finish seventh, beaten about four lengths behind Ballistic Moon in 47.33s.
Godolphin’s highly-rated colt, Ingratiating, runner-up in the Blue Diamond and third in the Golden Slipper earlier this year, was never given any rein by jockey Hugh Bowman but still worked home to claim second behind Have Mercy in 46.81s.
Another of Cummings’ promising rising three-year-old colts, Paulele, winner of three of his five juvenile starts including the Group 3 Kindergarten Stakes, also looked in very good order finishing third in his trial, beaten a length behind Lake Tana (47.58s).
Ingratiating ($15) and Paulele ($26) are among the early fancies for the Group 1 $1 million Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on September 25 behind their stablemate, Anamoe at $4.50 and joint favourite with Golden Slipper winner Stay Inside.
The Cummings-trained filly Trifaccia is on the Group 1 Flight Stakes trails this spring and won’t be a maiden for long judging by her eye-catching second to Bunchen (47.55s).
Originally published asVerry Elleegant and Zaaki set for showdown
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