Zoutori (Image: Racing Photos)
An impressive array of three-year-olds has dulled Simon Zahra's confidence of a Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap coup on Saturday, but he can still find some positives for his galloper Zoutori.
"They (three-year-olds) are definitely the ones to beat," he said on Friday. "The rain has come for Exceedance - it's probably the key for him - and Loving Gaby was a massive run here the other day.
"But he (Zoutori) looks well weighted (55kg) on Saturday against the other horses, I think. If he gets back and shows that turn of foot, he's going to be in the finish.
"It's a great Newmarket and it's exciting to have a runner in it."
While the three-year-olds do appear to hold the key to the famous 1200-metre straight test, Zoutori provides some of the best form of the older horses going into the race after his remarkable first-up second in the Oakleigh Plate behind Pippie when he got back on a leader-biased track.
"He bounced out of that run at Caulfield quite well," Zahra reported. "That was probably the key. We wanted to give him a tune-up before the Newmarket and he raced quite well and his work here Tuesday morning was terrific so we probably couldn't have him any better going into Saturday.
"His first two runs when he's nice and fresh, he sprints well fresh so we're hopeful he gets a good run and the track doesn't cut out too much for him."
Stablemate Mrs Beckham goes into the 1400-metre G2 TAB Kewney Stakes fresh, but Zahra explained that was not the original plan for the improving filly.
"We freshened her up for last Saturday, but she had a little stone bruise and had to miss," he explained.
"She came through that in good order and although this is probably her toughest test, we think she's got the ability to have a crack at these sort of fillies.
"We've taken out time with her and just placed her really well and hopefully she can put her hand up on Saturday."
The Ellerton-Zahra team also has a Sires' Produce Stakes runner in The Catch, who is the lowest-rated horse in the field of 13 on the back of two unplaced runs to begin his career. But Zahra warned that his form does not tell the full tale.
"If you watch the replay at Sandown he probably should have nearly won the race," he said. "He didn't get a lot of room and in his debut at Geelong, he was back last and picked his way through the field and flashed home.
"The ability is there, it's whether the autumn has come up a bit quick for him.
"We've put the blinkers on him to keep him sharpened up. He's definitely got the ability but whether he's seasoned enough for it, time will tell."