Guy Walter takes bush route to chase Oaks glory in town

Nov 07, 2013

A detour to Ballarat is not the normal path taken to the VRC Oaks but Warwick Farm trainer Guy Walter believes that win, lose or draw, it has been the right move for lightly raced filly Zanbagh.

Zanbagh's past two runs have been at Ballarat, where she comfortably beat a field of maidens before demolishing a fillies and mares race field by five lengths over 2000 metres on a heavy track.

Of the past 30 Oaks winners, 21 have come through the Wakeful Stakes, with 12 having won the race, but Walter never had any intention of taking that option.

If she had run on Saturday [in the Wakeful] you wouldn't have a filly for the Oaks, he said. If she gets beat tomorrow but runs a nice race, we'll go home and get ready for the AJC Oaks and she'll be a lot stronger with a couple of wins under her belt. It [Ballarat] has set her up for this race and for the future.

While the Ballarat form does not look impressive when compared with the group form of most rivals, Walter is unfazed for the 2500-metre staying test.

She won with a bit of authority last time albeit against an average field but they were older mares and it's always difficult to beat them at this time of year, he said. She won with a bit in hand and gave the impression that she would run the journey.

Zanbagh, a daughter of Walter's AJC Oaks winner Wild Iris, will be having only her seventh start in the Oaks and the trainer believes she is still on an upward path. She's only lightly raced and has benefited a lot from those two runs [at Ballarat], he said. Obviously she has to make a big step up but I'm confident she can.

While on form it might seem the decision to run Zanbagh in the Oaks is something of an afterthought, nothing could be further from the truth.

Obviously as a daughter of Wild Iris and Bernardini, there was an expectation she would be at her best once she got up to 1600m and further.

However, it was a seventh placing over 1200m in a maiden at Goulburn in February that had Walter and owners Sandy and Kathy Tait looking towards Melbourne in the spring.

She should have won at Goulburn and if you have something with a staying pedigree that is strong enough to show up at two, then you know you've got something, Walter said.

At her first run this campaign, Zanbagh was well back all the way in a maiden at Warwick Farm but with blinkers on at her next start in a maiden at Canberra over 1400m, she rattled home to run third and an Oaks campaign was confirmed.

Walter did not need to do any convincing to get Sandy Tait, who has raced stars gallopers such as Tie The Knot and Spinning Hill, with him, to aim Zanbagh at the Oaks.

Sandy just loves coming to Melbourne for the spring so he was more than happy to set her for the Oaks, Walter said