By Ray Hickson
Can Gailo Chop run a strong 2400m and claim a Group 1 double at Rosehill Gardens in the space of seven days?
It’s the burning question of the Group 1 $1.5m KIA Tancred Stakes (2400m) on Saturday and who better to answer it than his jockey Mark Zahra.
“If you’d asked me before his win last Saturday I probably would have said ‘doubtful’ but the way he won you’d have to say he is a chance,’’ Zahra said.
“He won easily and was still going pretty solid on the line.
“It’s definitely a query, there’s no doubt about that, but I think if ever there’s a time to tackle it now is that time.’’
Gailo Chop made a one-act affair of the Ranvet Stakes (2000m) last Saturday, and Punters Intel data revealed he was clearly stronger than any other runner on the line.
He was the only horse to break 36 seconds for the last 600m in the Ranvet (35.81) and his last 200m of 12.26 was 0.3 seconds faster than the best of the chasers.
Gailo Chop's easy Ranvet Stakes win at Rosehill last Saturday
The seven-year-old has won seven races at 2000m and once at 2100m but has only had one attempt at 2400m and that was two years ago when he ran seventh in the Dubai Sheema Classic, before joining the Darren Weir stable.
“The main thing to get the 2400m is to have him comfortable and relaxed,’’ Zahra said.
“He has been relaxing well in his races, the key is just to have him switched off as long as possible.
“He jumps quickly and usually puts himself straight in the spot so, whether I’m in front or right there, it’s about getting him to switch off until it’s time to creep into the race.’’
Nine horses have completed the Ranvet-Tancred Stakes double with the latest being Silent Achiever in 2014. Manighar carried the same colours as Gailo Chop to claim both races two years earlier.
Gailo Chop opened the $2.30 favourite with TAB and it’s the second favourite, 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin, that has Zahra nervous.
“He probably should have gone close to winning the Australian Cup, he was very stiff, he’s a proven stayer so the journey won’t be a problem,’’ he said.
“He will be the one coming at me late if I’m still hanging on with not long to go.’’
Zahra has the chance of a Group 1 double himself at Rosehill if he can weave some magic on classy filly Aloisia in the $500,000 Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m).
The Thousand Guineas winner was her trainer Aaron Purcell’s first Group 1 winner in the spring and as he hands back the stable to Ciaron Maher next week he’s hoping to end that tenure with a major as well.
Zahra is confident Aloisia is going better than her form suggests but sees the outside barrier as a hurdle.
“I would have loved to have drawn in to make the task less difficult,’’ he said.
“It’s going to force our hand for sure, she’ll have to drift back and switch off. I’d like to not go back to last but I’ll have to go back and get cover.’’
Aloisia ($6 with TAB) hit the line strongly first-up in The Vanity (1400m) finishing just behind the placings but lost all chance when she was knocked out of contention in the Australian Guineas (1600m) early in the straight.
She pleased Zahra hitting the line in an 1190m trial at Cranbourne recently.
“I wouldn’t have won (the Guineas) but she’s definitely more dour and wanting longer,’’ he said.
“I came off the bit before the incident happened but I was going really good through the line so I reckon I would have finished on the heels of the placegetters.
“If she can get back to some of her spring form she will run really well as long as I can get some luck.’’
An improved last start second behind Cliff’s Edge has Zahra thinking Levendi could be a big chance in the Group 2 $200,000 Tricolours Racing Tulloch Stakes (2000m).
Zahra was having his first ride on the three-year-old when he chased Cliff’s Edge home in the Alister Clark Stakes at Moonee Valley on March 16.
“He ran really well, obviously Cliff’s Edge is a pretty good horse and I thought I was a chnace of beating him on the turn,’’ he said.
“He still has to improve, to come this way around first time and be competitive, but the A-graders went around last week so he gets his chance to run well.’’
Levendi is the $4.80 second favourite in the Tulloch Stakes with TAB.