Anzac Feature An Important Dance Rehearsal For Zouatica

When there’s a spot in a $3 million race at stake you leave nothing to chance and that’s what Barbara Joseph, Paul and Matt Jones are doing with bold front-runner Zouatica as they work to sure up a spot in their third Big Dance.

Trainer Matt Jones

One Aye ran seventh in the inaugural Big Dance in 2022 while Super Helpful filled third placing behind Attractable last year for the Joseph Jones team.

Co-trainer Matt Jones said while Zouatica has earned his eligibility via his Moruya Cup win the stable is wary that with a 75 rating his place can’t be considered secure just yet which is why the gelding runs in the Anzac Day Cup (1800m) at Kensington on Thursday.

“This is our third year so we’re getting better at it,’’ Jones said.

“You’ve got to hold your benchmark, you’ve got to win races leading in if you’ve got a low benchmark.

“Part of our program was to find out if he can run a mile before we put him out.

“The mile race was pencilled in last start and then something after that, and we found the 1800m was a perfect race for him.

“They gave us four points last start, if he wins this one we should be going close (to being in the field).

“He goes out for six weeks then we start winding him up into the Big Dance third-up.”

Zouatica has raced three times since his Moruya Cup win, he failed in the South East Country Championships before finishing second in the Southern Wild Card at Goulburn.

But when he stepped up from the 1400m of those races to 1600m in a metropolitan race at Gosford on April 10 he showed a little distance is what he relishes.

Jones said the win was particularly strong and with Anna Roper, who was on board that day, not available he turned to stable apprentice Jake Barrett to take 3kg off on Thursday.

“Jake worked him with Super Helpful, before he came up to Rockhampton for the Archer, they were side by side but I think Zouatica had him,’’ he said.

“He said on the line he was just winding up. Anna said he lost his legs on the corner a bit at Gosford but when he balanced up again away he went, he wasn’t stopping through the line, he was powering again.”

That familiarity will come in handy for Barrett, who scored his maiden city win on Belleistic Kids for the stable two days before Christmas, as Jones said Zouatica is still maturing but he clearly relishes being allowed to roll.

“He’s still learning about racing, when he puts his energy into going forward instead of up and down he’s a different animal,’’ Jones said.

“Leading into the Moruya Cup win it was the best work I’ve seen him do, he lengthened out instead of going upwards. He was like a turbo jet, and he came out and won and won that race like nobody was going to get near him.

“Instead of climbing, his efforts are into going forward. It’s up to the riders to not hold onto him too tight. If you get into a rhythm early he’ll increase his own speed, and Anna did it perfectly the other day.

“We think he will relish the 1800m. As long it’s not a firm track, I think the Kensington will suit him.”

Meanwhile, Belleistic Kids is being readied for another shot at a Big Dance eligible race later this year having run second in both the Snake Gully Cup and the Mudgee Cup prior to his Randwick win.

While those seconds make him eligible for the Big Dance it’s likely, at this stage, he’ll find himself in the Little Dance given winners of eligible races receive ballot preference.

– Racing NSW

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