Racing: Derby victor aims at Cup

By Michael Guerin

Shootoff will kick off preparation for Ellerslie features over 1400m at Te Rapa.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

When Shootoff downed Shez Sinsational in the Queensland Derby last year, nobody thought the next time the pair crossed paths would be at Te Rapa.

But that is where the two stars find themselves this Saturday, after vastly differing levels of success since their classic clash.

Shootoff resumes his injury-interrupted career in a sprint race he probably can't win at Saturday's mega meeting, while Shez Sinsational will be favourite for the $85,000 mares' race where she comes in beautifully under the weight-for-age scale.

So while they don't clash on Saturday they will be at the same track for the first time since Shootoff downed the Taranaki mare in the Derby at Eagle Farm on June 11 last year.

Back then he was a 3-year-old with the world at his hooves and he went on to be a luckless ninth in the Caulfield Cup and second in the Queen Elizabeth.

That had trainer Graeme Rogerson eyeing the glamour staying races and maybe even an overseas campaign before Shootoff hurt a leg and the only overseas trip he took was to Waikato for rehab.

"He spent four months jogging behind my trotters and another four on the aqua walker," says Rogerson.

"Now he is massive. He has really developed and I am sure he still has a huge future ahead of him.

"He is a genuine top-class horse so he will be aimed at the Zabeel Classic on Boxing Day and then the Auckland Cup in March."

A start in the Zabeel would mean meeting Shez Sinsational again when she is at the height of her powers, a chance for revenge which will undoubtedly enthuse the latter's trainer Allan Sharrock.

Before then there is the small matter of the 60kg that Shootoff has to carry in Saturday's $50,000 sprint over 1400m, conceding some serious horses plenty of weight.

"He has had two trials and we are very happy with him but I can't see him winning on Saturday and if he ran in three I'd be happy," says Rogerson.

"But he will make it back and people will see a good horse."

While he has won only four of his 22 starts, Shootoff has already amassed more than $1 million in stakes when his Australian earnings are converted back to New Zealand so he adds some serious punch to our summer staying features, as he also holds nominations for the City Of Auckland ($16 early markets) and Wellington Cups.

The next of our big summer staying races is also on Saturday where Jeu de Cartes has paid the price for her Counties Cup win by being lumped with 59kg in the $100,000 Waikato Cup.

While that weight will shock nobody after she carried 57kg on a 52kg minimum at Pukekohe, victory on Saturday would leave the mare with little future in New Zealand.

She was invited to the Perth Cup in a few weeks and while she won't be heading there her future has to lie in Australia as she doesn't really appeal as a weight-for-age type.

Meanwhile, the connections of Shez Sinsational's main rival for Saturday, Guiseppina, can take some comfort from the fact that the great mare has drawn gate 12 in their 1600m clash.

The last time the wonderful mares met under weight-for-age over 1600m, Guiseppina easily beat an out-of-sorts Shez Sinsational home in the Windsor Park Plate at Hastings in September before they quinellaed the Spring Classic two weeks later.

Shooting Star

* Former top Australian galloper Shootoff makes his New Zealand debut at Te Rapa on Saturday.

* He downed Shez Sinsational in last year's Queensland Derby.

* Shootoff is being aimed towards a repeat clash with her in the Zabeel Classic.

* Outstanding mares dominate Saturday's premier meeting.

- NZ Herald

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