Ellerton-Zahra Eye End To G1 Drought

By his own admission, Simon Zahra admits it has been quite the drought since his stable’s last Group 1 victory.

Zahra has won three in partnership with his cousin Mat Ellerton but the most recent was Response in the Robert Sangster Stakes of 2011.

On Thursday the team saddles up Aristia in the Kennedy Oaks, a filly who is currently on the second line of betting behind Thousand Guineas winner Amphitrite.

Aristia won the Wakeful Stakes on Derby Day and is looking to become the 13th filly in the past 30 years to complete the Flemington fillies double.

“She has obviously got a great chance, we wouldn’t have been running her if we didn’t think she had pulled up extremely well and was on song,” Zahra said.

“We had a good look at her on Monday and she probably looks better for the run.

“We are excited, obviously whether she is going to stay is going to be the million-dollar question, as it is with all the fillies in the race.

“I loved the way she relaxed there on Saturday, once Damian Lane got cover on speed she relaxed beautifully, even when he popped her out three wide she didn’t want to over-do it.

“When he asked her to go she had that really good turn of foot.

“My gut feeling says she will stay but until they get out there with that extra 500m, time will tell.”

Aristia’s first victory came less than a week ago in the Wakeful Stakes but Zahra and her connections have always had a big opinion of the daughter of Lonhro.

“She has showed us from day one how much ability she has got, I remember a couple of owners texting me about whether they should go in this Lonhro, I said take as much as you can, from a long way out she has shown us there is a lot of talent there,” he said.

“We initially thought she would be a miler but as the time went on this time in she looked like she wanted 2000m and we made a plan about two months ago for the Ethereal and the Wakeful to be our turning point and we bypassed the Thousand Guineas and it looks like it has been a smart decision now.”

The Kennedy Oaks has attracted a field of 15 runners and while many may appear to lack the class of the more-fancied market elects, Zahra is a big believer that all competitors need respect when dealing with a race like this.

“The Oaks can throw up a rough result and it doesn’t surprise you when you look at their form, people can go around the back door, go to a 2000-metre maiden and peak them up nicely and off the scene,” he said.

“You have to worry about the sneaky ones, obviously Darren (Weir) has got a good hand, he has some good, seasoned fillies in there.

“We only really worry about our filly and we couldn’t be more happy the way she has come through the run.”

Leading jockey Damian Lane continues his association with Aristia in the Oaks and his presence provides Zahra with significant confidence.

“The way he rode her the other day was 11/10, from the wide gate he got in one off the fence, went to sleep, didn’t pop out too early,” he said.

“In all honesty she didn’t have a hard run, they ran nice time and she came back and licked the bin that night, going into an Oaks, we haven’t had to back off her or do anything different, she is up and about.”

– racing.com

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