Kovalica Fighting Fit For Zaaki Clash

Chris Waller says fitness won’t be an issue for Kovalica when he takes on Zaaki and co in the Doomben Cup, but he does have reservations about the three-year-old’s outside draw.

The champion trainer was in two-minds about whether the Queensland Derby favourite needed to run on Saturday after missing a scheduled start in last week’s Rough Habit Plate (2000m) due to a foot abscess.

But he decided to err on the side of caution, feeling it would be too big a task for Kovalica to go straight from his Queensland Guineas win over a mile into the 2400m of next weekend’s Derby.

“To my eye he looks very fit to the point where I questioned whether he needed to run in the Doomben Cup,” Waller said.

“But going from a mile straight into a Derby I thought was just a step too far when he hasn’t run over that distance before.”

Waller said Kovalica’s setback had not interrupted his work program and the gelding had come through a solid gallop on Tuesday with flying colours.

While no three-year-old has won the Doomben Cup (2000m) since Akhenaton 23 years ago, few have tried, and the presence of Kovalica has added another layer of intrigue to Saturday’s $1 million race.

Proven Group 1 performer Zaaki remains a dominant even-money favourite and as the only other runner at single-figure odds, Kovalica ($7.50) is regarded as his biggest threat.

Both have drawn wide, Zaaki in 11 and Kovalica in 13, but while the former will go forward, Kovalica is likely to be ridden for luck.

“He may have to take his medicine the first half of the race and see how he finishes off over the concluding stages,” Waller said.

“Zaaki is a genuine Group One horse and looks to have come back really well.

“He will obviously improve going into this race so he’s the one we all have to beat.”

Waller also saddles up Group 1 Queen Of The Turf Stakes winner Atishu and expects the mare to improve from her last start sixth in the Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at what was her first run in a month.

“Her run in the Hollindale was good. She had a tricky barrier, there wasn’t a lot of speed in the mid-stages and it was a sprint home which made it tricky as well,” he said.

“I was comfortable with the way she finished off and she will improve going into this race.”

Fourteen of the last 20 Doomben Cup winners have had their final lead-up run in the Hollindale Stakes, although only five mares have been successful in the Group 1 in its 90-year history, Kenedna in 2019 the most recent.

– RAS NewsWire

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