Caulfield Cup sparkle for Ritchie

Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie had a Caulfield Cup sparkle in his eyes after watching stable runner Zurella score a solid first-up win in Melbourne this afternoon.

Ritchie saddled up Zurella and stablemate (Miss) Artistic in the Group II $A221,500 Let’s Elope Stakes at Flemington and both performed well, though the latter was totally overshadowed by the former when finishing seventh.

Artistic had beaten Zurella in a tight finish to the Group I NZ Oaks at Trentham last March, but on this occasion Ritchie was applauding the winning performance of Zurella, who came from back in the field to win in the hands of Craig Newitt.

Zurella had just a few behind her entering the home straight and Newitt was held up for racing room, but once he worked her into the clear she responded well. “She still had a lot left in the tank,” declared Newitt.

Ritchie has entered Zurella for the Group I Caulfield Cup and would dearly love to get the Zabeel filly to the 2400-metre feature next month.

“She always looked as though she would develop into a lovely four-year-old and it’s good to see her do it on the track,” said Ritchie. “She’s only going to get stronger from here on in and I’m delighted to see her win like that. I’d like to run her in the Caulfield Cup so she’ll go to the Naturalism Stakes next time and if she can win that she’ll be exempt from the ballot for the Cup.”

Zurella and Artistic are both owned and bred by The Oaks Stud and Zurella has been taken along patiently by Ritchie because of her temperament.

“She’s a handful, but she is getting a bit better,” said Ritchie. “She’s got so much ability and she’s the type who buttons off very quickly in her races and that’s usually the sign of a good stayer.”

Zurella has now had five wins and two seconds from nine starts. One of her previous wins was in the Group II Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic at Te Rapa last February.