Zoutori winning the Bobbie Lewis Quality (Image: Racing Photos)
This time last week, punters could not wait to sink their teeth into Zoutori.
The four-year-old son of Zoustar had not raced since finishing third behind star sprinters Sunlight and Santa Ana Lane in the Gilgai Stakes on October 5 and was hot favourite for the first race on AAMI Victoria Derby Day.
He could manage only third in that event, but it wasn't the greatest shock to co-trainer Simon Zahra, who had openly stated in the lead-up to Cup Week that he'd taken a few days to recover from the Gilgai run.
It might be tough for those who were on him last week to back-up in the much tougher $2 million Darley Sprint Classic, but Zahra at least had some encouraging words on the eve of the race.
"We've probably had a better week with him this week," he said.
"He's had a nice easy week just pottering around and he looks a lot better.
"It was a bit of a head-scratcher the other day. Whether the water hitting him in the race bothered him, whether he wanted 1400 (who knows).
"But he can run crazy times, so hopefully there's no rain around and the track can dry out, which will suit him a bit better.
"We've taken bloods, we've looked at him and we're happy enough to have a crack."
Zoutori is a $16 chance in the Darley Sprint Classic market, which is headed by Santa Ana Lane at $2.40.
He is one of two Group 1 runners for Zahra and his co-trainer Mathew Ellerton on Final Day at their home track, also represented by $21 chance Aristia in the Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes.
Last year's VRC Oaks winner has been set for a 2000-metre race on Final Day all campaign, but after she ran so well against Melody Belle - who is $3.40 favourite for the Mackinnon - they decided to bypass the G2 Matriarch Stakes for mares and tackle the $2m event open to all-comers.
"The Matriarch was in the back of our mind, but just the way she pulled up … we went back to the stalls on Saturday and thought she'd had a tough run, but she'd recovered and had her head down picking grass within 20 minutes," Zahra said.
"We were rapt with that and Monday morning she just looked absolutely outstanding. She's come on enough for us to have a crack at the big one."
Aristia will be ridden by this week's Lexus Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Craig Williams, with Damian Lane to take the seat aboard Zoutori.