Trainer Leon Corstens remains confident that Zabeelionaire is a quality stayer in the making and will get his chance to prove it in the Norman Robinson Stakes at Caulfield.
The Zabeel colt is a maiden after three runs but will have his Victoria Derby trial and his first start away from Moonee Valley in the longest race he has contested so far in Saturday’s 2000-metre Group Three feature.
“I have always had the utmost faith in the horse but he has got to stand up and be counted this Saturday,” Corstens said.
“He has drawn well (barrier five) and it is his first time away from the Valley so it is going to be interesting.”
Zabeelionaire has been a progressive colt and after finishing ninth at his debut over an unsuitable 1200 metres in the Mitchell McKenzie Stakes he was an eye-catching second from back in the field over 1500 metres on September 10.
He stepped up again when he finished fourth to Chase The Rainbow in the Group two Bill Stutt Stakes (1600m) but Corstens believes he has much more to offer.
He said the slow track worked against Zabeelionaire in the Stutt and, while he was only beaten 3-1/2 lengths, he floundered when the pressure came on.
“He never handled the track at all,” Corstens said.
“The moment he (Stephen Baster) asked him to so something the horse was slipping and sliding all over the place.”
The promise of firmer ground and the more spacious Caulfield circuit for Zabeelionaire on Saturday excites Corstens who hopes he can settle in the first half of the field and work home.
TAB Sportsbet has Zabeelionaire safe in betting at $6 behind the Gai Waterhouse-trained Niagara ($5) and New Zealand three-year-old Sangster ($5.50).
Niagara posted his first win in four starts in a Benchmark 65 when scoring by six lengths at Canterbury but jumps up from 1550 metres, while Sangster was third when beaten 1-3/4 lengths by Doctor Doom in the Group One Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on October 1.
The distance won’t be a worry for Zabeelionaire who is out of a Carnegie mare but Corstens knows the competition is getting harder.
“I have got no doubt he has improved but this is really the testing time,” Corstens said.
“It is the nitty gritty for him now and time to show us what he can do.
“To me he looks like a dead-set stayer and I’m hoping he will be running seventh or eighth and can work home.”