New Zealand trainer Janelle Millar was aiming Zola Express towards the Group 2 Travis Stakes (2000m) at Te Rapa later this month, however, a lack of entrants for the Group 1 Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) on Saturday convinced her to change tack.
“I was bypassing the Breeders’ and heading to the Travis Stakes in a fortnight’s time because she is better suited to 2000m,” Millar said.
“The Breeders’ hasn’t been on the radar. I looked at horses like Levante and I thought ‘I am not even going to try and go against them’, but with Levante coming out and the field being so small I thought we could get a bit of black-type and treat it as a trial for the Travis because she has never raced at Te Rapa before.”
Zola Express heads into the race in good form, having won the Group 2 Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) at Awapuni earlier this month, giving Millar a great thrill.
“Winning a race like that touches the heart,” she said. “It makes what we do all worthwhile.
“These wins are big for a small trainer like myself and just to have a horse that is good enough to be running in these type of races is phenomenal.
“Sometimes you wake up and think ‘why do I do this’, but the feeling after winning a race like that makes it all worth it.
“She is the Queen around the stable.”
Millar isn’t overly enthusiastic about her mare’s chances heading into Saturday given she has just returned from a short freshen-up after her Group Two triumph, but she said the mare is in good order ahead of the weekend.
“2000m is her go and I have given her a freshen-up. She had three days off after her last win and then went to the physio and has been on the water-walker for a week,” Millar said.
“She got back to my place on Tuesday and we gave her a gallop on Wednesday and I am very happy with her.
“It wasn’t initially the plan, and I don’t like changing my plans, so going into it has been a bit different to what we are used to.
“It is hard to say where we are, but she is going to be fit enough to run the mile.”
The New Plymouth conditioner will also head north on Saturday with last start winner Shezabelter who has drawn the ace marble in the Piako Rural Services Mile (1600m).
“She is in terrific form,” Millar said. “I nominated her for the Manawatu Breeders’ (Group 3, 2000m) but I wasn’t happy with her the Saturday before that, she had a bit of filling in one joint, so I backed off her and got the vet in and she is back to her best now.
“The jockey (Ashvin Goindasamy) has never ridden her before and I am hoping he can ride her quite positively, somewhere midfield would be perfect for us.
“I expect a bold run from her and if she were to win well I would look to bringing her back to Te Rapa in a fortnight as well.”