The prestige attached to a Group Two race has swayed trainer Leon Corstens to start exciting young staying prospect Zabeelionaire in the Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley.
The three-year-old is also entered for Sunday’s Listed UCI Stakes (1800m) at Flemington but Corstens says the 1600-metre Valley feature on Friday night would be more beneficial to him as a potential stallion.
“He is still an entire so I think if he can either win or run in the placings in that particular race it would have much more prestige for him than running in a Listed race,” Corstens said.
A $250,000 son of Zabeel, Zabeelionaire has always impressed Corstens who hasn’t hesitated about testing him at stakes level.
In his first race campaign this spring, Zabeelionaire was beaten for pace and finished down the track at his debut in the Listed McKenzie Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley but caught the eye last start around the circuit over a more suitable 1500 metres.
After again settling at the back of the field he flashed home to finish second to Whisper Downs on September 10.
Costly Commitment finished third in the race and has since franked the form by winning at Caulfield.
Whisper Downs is again among Zabeelionaire’s rivals in the Stutt but Corstens is hopeful his charge can make up last start’s 2-1/2 length losing margin.
“Whisper Downs is going to be hard to beat but I was very, very pleased with his (Zabeelionaire) run,” Corstens said.
“He’s gone ahead and I’m really pleased with him.”
Corstens said that depending on race tempo, jockey Stephen Baster should have Zabeelionaire racing closer in the Stutt and be midfield.
The Stutt has been a good race to both Corstens and Baster with the trainer-jockey combination taking out the 2004 feature with Mr Martini.
Baster also won on the Peter Hayes-trained Sarson Trail in 2000 while Steven King rode 2002 winner Helenus for Corstens.
Helenus went on to win his next three starts including the Caulfield Guineas and the Victoria Derby.
But Corstens is taking it race by race with Zabeelionaire.
He said the colt needed to prove himself to warrant a start in Saturday week’s Caulfield Guineas but is hopeful he can train on to the Derby.
“The Guineas is definitely an option but a lot depends on what he does tomorrow night and how he does it,” Corstens said,
“He would have to really impress me to head there.”
Corstens also has Rahveel engaged in the Stutt but she is likely to be reserved for Sunday’s Group Two Edward Manifold Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.