A late decision to run Southern France in the Zipping Classic has been rewarded, with the import racing away with the Group Two weight-for-age race at Sandown.
Southern France finished 19th in the Melbourne Cup in his first Australian start and first for trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, and he was only entered for Saturday’s Zipping (2400m) after nominations were extended on Monday.
Maher felt the race was winnable and gave the former Aidan O’Brien-trained Southern France the green light to run after an impressive track gallop before acceptances.
“I wanted to give him a gallop just to see how he was before we accepted and he worked really well on Wednesday,” Maher said.
“That gave me the confidence to give him the nod.”
With Mark Zahra aboard, the Irish horse settled back in the 10-horse field and needed to be urged along coming to the home turn before he let down strongly in the straight to overhaul his rivals and draw away.
Southern France, the $3 favourite, defeated Miss Siska ($10) by 1-3/4-lengths with Chapada ($19) a nose away third.
“He needed a bit of a shake up but Mark rode him well,” Maher said.
“He had him back a bit further than we thought but there was a genuine tempo and he quickened up nicely.
“His run was a shade disappointing, and he didn’t get a lot of luck, in the Melbourne Cup but he’s made up for it now and it was a good win today.”
Maher said there were a couple of options for Southern France who could be sent back abroad for an international campaign or remain in Australia.
Whether Maher and Eustace continue training Southern France if he heads back abroad is something Maher also said they would have to work out.
“There’s a couple of plans I mapped out the other day,” Maher said.
“He could head straight back and maybe go to Dubai or he may stay here and head towards maybe the Australian Cup into a Tancred Stakes.”
The Zipping Classic was Southern France’s fourth win from 16 starts including a victory in the Irish St Leger Trial earlier this year.
Earlier on the program, Maher and Eustace won the Listed Sandown Cup (3200m) with Azuro who beat stablemate Wall Of Fire.