Zanotti to carry Marsh hopes in Oaks

While stable star Ruud Awakening is ticking over for a fresh start late next month, trainer Stephen Marsh is taking a longshot crack at Saturday’s Gr. 1 Wellfield NZ Oaks at Trentham.

Marsh had two fillies nominated for the $300,000 2400-metre feature, but will only start Zanotti, having decided to put the other entrant, Cursive out for a spell.

“Cursive has had enough this campaign and needs a break, but I give Zanotti a chance of getting some of it on Saturday,” said Marsh, who is also a part-owner of the Strategic Image filly.

“She does need a dead to slow track, so I’d love to see some rain. She just keeps whacking away and her runs suggest she will get the 2400 metres.

“Ever since she ran second over ground at Hawke’s Bay an early three-year-old I thought she could be an Oaks filly.”

Zanotti was a distant second on debut behind Cauthen at Te Rapa in July last year and she began her current campaign in encouraging fashion with a third to Aspen at Ruakaka and a third to Spellbinder (albeit seven lengths away) over 1400 metres in the Listed Allied Workforce Solioquy Stakes at Ellerslie.

The Hastings placing referred to by Marsh was last October over 2100 metres when Zanotti was beaten a long head by Here’s De Consul. She was then freshened and won over 1400 at Matamata and two starts later was third to Sir Darci over 1600 at Ellerslie before her last-start fifth to leading Oaks candidate Rock Diva in the Gr. 3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m) at Ellerslie last Wednesday.

Zanotti has been ridden in her last couple of starts by Danielle Johnson, who again has the mount in the Oaks.

The Wellfield NZ Oaks will be Marsh’s second attack on a three-year-old classic this month as he lined up Chipandchase in the Gr. 1 TV3 NZ Derby, in which he ran on late for seventh to Puccini.

“I thought he ran really well,” said Marsh. “He only got going late. He can have a good spell and won’t be back until the spring. I think he’s a Cups horse in the making.”

Marsh was also satisfied with the fresh-up run of Lucky Country over 1200 metres at Ellerslie last Wednesday. Although she beat only one horse home when sixth, she was four lengths from the winner, Pinzarra.

“She got back and ran on all right,” said Marsh. “She was fat and needed it and should be harder to beat at Tauranga in a fillies and mares rating 85 1300 on Saturday week. If she comes up well she could go to Brisbane.”

Barbaric, a Listed winner for the stable this season, is having a further week out spelling before being set for racing later in the season, while the big focus next month will be on Ruud Awakening, who will resume in the Gr. 3 $70,000 Windsor Park Stud Breeders’ Stakes at Te Rapa on April 26.

“She’s been doing a lot of swimming and some pacework, but I haven’t stepped up her work-rate yet,” said Marsh. “She’ll have the one run at Te Rapa then go out for a spell and return in the spring. She won’t be going to Brisbane.”