By Ray Hickson
The bar has been set at a top three finish by co-trainer Peter Snowden for promising colt Mazu to prove he can be a force at Group 1 level this spring when he returns at Randwick on Saturday.
And Snowden said it’s how the three-year-old handles himself from a tricky barrier that will be crucial to his chances in the Listed $150,000 Fujitsu General Rosebud (1100m).
Mazu showed talent in his first preparation and hasn’t raced since a fast-finishing third in the Group 3 Pago Pago Stakes in March.
“If he runs in the first three it’s a good pass and I’d be expecting nothing less,’’ Snowden said.
“If he finishes further back than that we’d be in a bit of trouble heading to the better races. But I’m confident he can run in the first three and if he does that we can look to the Run To the Rose.
“He’s not fully wound up although he has had two trials. We are looking at races further on but still want to see him be competitive in a race like this.”
Mazu, an $8 chance with TAB on Thursday for his return and at $26 in the Golden Rose, led all the way in his debut win at Canterbury but was ridden more conservatively in the Pago Pago.
Snowden said the horse has matured so he hopes jockey Kerrin McEvoy, who rode Mazu in his latest trial, can find a spot in the first half from barrier nine of 10 or he could be forced to press on.
“I didn’t really want to draw there,’’ he said.
“He has got gate speed but I was trying to teach him to settle a bit better this preparation. It was the only fault he had, he was in a hurry to do everything.
“He led by default at Canterbury because he drew wide but last start we tried to hold him up and he travelled quite strongly behind the leaders and didn’t settle as well as we would have liked.
“It’s going to be pretty hard to come back from that draw because there’s not a lot of speed there, there’s two or three that will roll forward but the rest are midfield. If we can’t slot in we’ll go forward and sit outside the lead but I’d like to settle him just off the speed.”
Stablemate Hightail finally has conditions to suit him in the Group 2 $200,000 Heineken Missile Stakes (1200m) thought it’s been almost 450 days since his last win.
The five-year-old has only been placed once in eight subsequent starts but has been hampered by his aversion to wet tracks, something he won’t have to deal with on Saturday.
“His form has been a bit up and down, wet tracks are his biggest bug bear,’’ Snowden said.
“I thought his last trial was very good and he had a jump out after that at Randwick that was brilliant, the best I’ve ever seen him go.
“I think he’s going well enough, on top of the ground is a plus for him and nice pace in the race is a plus. I couldn’t have him better at home he, just has to take that form to the races.”
Mazu runs second in a trial at Randwick on July 27
Hightail was one of the outsiders at $13 with TAB on Thursday in the Missile, while Stellar Pauline was on the $14 line in the Ray Selkrig Handicap (1200m).
Snowden said he’s rapt with the mare, who has done plenty of travelling in the past couple of months, and if she can repeat her last start third behind Starla two weeks ago the trainer is confident she can be competitive.
“Her last run was excellent and she is in good order,’’ he said.
“She’s looking well and working well so I think there is another good run in her.”