Trainer Pat Duff returns to Grafton on Wednesday for a second crack at the Ramornie Handicap (1200m) and believes his veteran Brisbane-based sprinter Steel Zip still has what it takes to win the $160,000 Listed sprint.
Steel Zip is only a few weeks away from turning 10, but retirement isn’t on the agenda just yet for the sprinter who is closing in on $1 million in prizemoney from a career that has so far yielded 11 wins.
The grey ran third to Smart Volatility and Big Money in last year’s Ramornie and Duff believes the ‘old boy’ deserves another crack on Wednesday.
“I believe these older horses let you know when they’ve had enough and it’s time to retire, but that’s not the case yet with this horse,” said Duff. “He’s enjoying his racing and is sound – he’ll let us know when it’s time for retirement but I still think there’s another good win in him before that happens.”
Steel Zip has shown in recent starts that he still retains his zest for racing. He wasn’t beaten far by dead-heaters Jumbo Prince and Col’n’Lil in the Listed Weetwood Hcp in Toowoomba three runs back on April 8, and last start made up a lot of ground late to finish just behind the placegetters in the Group 3 Healy Stakes (1200m) behind Burning Passion at Doomben on June 24. Sydney mare Flippant, who also runs in the Ramornie, finished just in front of him in the Healy.
“His run in the Healy was very good and Jeff Lloyd, who rode him that day, was impressed with his effort and told me he was very keen to ride him if we progressed to the Ramornie,” said Duff. “On his trackwork and his Healy effort, I think this old horse is going just a well as he was this time last year when he ran so well in the Ramornie.
"He got shuffled back a bit last year from barrier one and didn’t have the best of luck but really hit the line well. The Ramornie is always a hard race to win, but I if the speed’s on and he should be getting home very hard.”
Surprisingly, Steel Zip last year was the first Ramornie starter for Duff during his many years as a trainer: “It’s a race I’ve always admired, but over the years just didn’t’ have the right horse at the right time to take down for the race,” he said.
Duff has a real soft spot for Steel Zip, a son of Canadian Silver who only cost $13,000 as a yearling at the 2009 Magic Millions sale and has amassed $944,500 in his 82-start career. Steel Zip is raced by the trainer’s family along with long-time friend and stable client Richard Chang.
“Steel Zip was also raced by my late wife Dinah, so he’s been a real family horse,” said Duff. “He’s been a tremendous horse over many seasons and it would be great if he can break through the million-dollar barrier before he finally retires. He’s done a great job for a horse who was very cheap at $13,000.”
Steel Zip is aiming to become the third horse trained by Duff to win $1 million after his former classy sprinters Hard To Catch and Heart Of The Citi. Steel Zip, a $23 chance on TAB fixed odds in the Ramornie, drew gate four in the 16-horse field.