Underrated New Plymouth mare Zola Express captured the biggest win of her burgeoning career when she claimed the Listed Steelform Roofing Group Wanganui Cup (2040m).
The Janelle Millar-trained five-year-old has struck a purple patch of form since commencing her latest campaign, winning her first two starts this season before not having much luck in her next two races before Saturday’s contest.
Millar legged aboard lightweight jockey Chris Dell for his first ride on the mare on Saturday, who carried just 54kgs and he responded with a sparkling effort that saw the pair come from well back on the home bend to pierce between runners and stride home to win by just on a length from Motivation and Bully Boy.
Millar was thrilled with the result and the ride by Dell.
“It was just a ten out of ten ride,” she said.
“Chris hadn’t ridden her before and I must admit that had me worried, but he did his homework well and followed instructions to the letter.
“I thought there might be a heap of pace early on and that’s exactly what happened.
“I said to him to just be patient and not to panic if he was well back as she can really finish her races off.
“He handled her so well and when I could see her start to sprint in the straight, I knew she was going to be thereabouts.”
Raced on lease from Windsor Park Stud, Zola Express has 33 people involved in the ownership syndicate, with more than half on course to witness the victory.
“There is a really great bunch of people in her ownership and they are having such a good time with her,” Millar said.
“I picked her out of a paddock of six fillies at Windsor Park when I was there one day with Steve Till (General Manager) and he said she was the one he would have selected as well, which made me feel pretty good.
“She has always shown me a lot of ability but has taken time to mature.
“She still has some maturing to do but is just a different horse this time in.
“She goes on most tracks and has a super record in the wet, but I think that is just because she tries so hard.
“Now she is getting up in grade the better tracks will suit her and I think that by the time the autumn comes, she is going to be at her peak.
“We had targeted this race from the start of her campaign, so now she can have three to four weeks in the paddock before we get her back in and set her for some nice races that are coming up later in the summer and into the autumn.”
By Shamexpress, Zola Express is the second foal of the ill-fated Golan mare Zolana and is closely related to South African Group Three winner Theatre Of Dreams and 2004 New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the year, Taatletail. – NZ Racing Desk