Group One hill to climb

Cambridge trainer Shaune Ritchie has just one goal in mind for his smart mare Zurella and he’s not fussy about the venue.

“She’s won two Group Twos and a Group Three so there is just one more hill to climb,” said Ritchie. “We’re after that Group One win. And the best place to try and win it is in your own back yard.”

Ritchie has four Group One races pencilled-in as possible missions for Zurella this campaign.

“She’ll almost certainly have her first run in the Waikato Draught Sprint at Te Rapa next month,” he said. “There’s also the Otaki Group One, the NZ Stakes at Ellerslie and the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Te Aroha. I don’t care which one she wins, as long as she can get one of them.”

Zurella was just pipped by stablemate Artistic in the Group One Wellfield NZ Oaks (2400m) at Trentham last March and has been a Group Two winner on both sides of the Tasman.

She registered her first stakes win in the Group III Ezibuy Eulogy Stakes at Awapuni, then won the Group II Sir Tristram Fillies Classic at Te Rapa. Her other major win came in her Australian debut in the Group II Let’s Elope Stakes (1400m) at Flemington last September.

Zurella’s form then tailed off in three other starts in Australia and she was given a spell after finishing sixth of eight in the Group III Tesio Stakes at Moonee Valley last October.

“She had a good break and she put a lot of weight on,” said Ritchie. “She’s coming up well and there’s a chance she could go back to Aussie later in the year, but we want to get the Group One monkey off her back first.”