In a masterful training performance, John O’Shea has nursed dual Group 1 placegetter Zou Tiger back from two bouts of surgery to produce him for an emphatic win in the Listed Carrington Stakes at Randwick.
A high-class three-year-old, Zou Tiger placed in the 2022 Golden Rose and last year’s Randwick Guineas, but his only win prior to Saturday was in a Kensington maiden.
Adamant a breathing issue was hindering the horse from realising his potential, O’Shea sent Zou Tiger for a throat operation last year while also making the difficult decision to geld him.
He returned with a midfield effort in Listed grade at Canterbury on New Years’ Day but turned the corner with a fighting second to Rubamos last start.
Zou Tiger ($5.50) improved off that again to make a one-act affair of the Carrington Stakes (1400m), spearing to the front halfway up the straight and cruising to a 2-1/2 length win over topweight Tamerlane ($7) with leader Felix Majestic ($4.80 fav) holding third, another three-quarters of a length away.
“It was an issue that was holding him back as a colt,” O’Shea said of Zou Tiger’s throat complaint.
“He just wasn’t finishing his mile races off. He was probably compromised by a bit of wind.
“He has taken a little while to get fit.
“He obviously did a good job second-up and then bounced off that so we were optimistic he could give a good account of himself.”
Zou Tiger was ridden to victory by last season’s champion apprentice Zac Lloyd, who said he was confident the horse would be hard to hold out once he got into a good spot in the slipstream of the leader.
“He just needed those couple of runs under his belt and he was back today,” Lloyd said.
“He was able to get into a lovely rhythm and because he’s such a big horse, when he gets into that rhythm he is very hard to beat.”
O’Shea, who was in New Zealand to attend the Karaka sales, said he was unsure of immediate plans for Zou Tiger as he had wanted to see how he performed on Saturday before shoring up a program.
Meanwhile, Bandi’s Boy ($9.50) indicated he was on track for his Country Championships goal with a first-up win in the Precise Air Handicap (1200m).
The lightly raced four-year-old surprised trainer Danny Williams, who felt he would need the outing.
“We weren’t over-confident, the horse’s trackwork suggested he’s not quite there yet,” Williams said.
“We planned after his last preparation to give him three starts prior to the Country Championship qualifier and he’s never won first-up, he always needs a run first-up.”
Winning jockey Jay Ford said if Bandi’s Boy could continue to hone his racing manners, his future was bright.
“He lacks race craft, he’s inexperienced but he’s got a motor,” Ford said.
“He should continue to improve as he gets more experience.”