Mark Zahra’s return from a careless riding has come just in time for him to reunite with the horse who spearheads his hopes of Group One glory in the coming months.
Zahra is stoked to have the ride on exciting two-year-old Fontiton when she resumes in the fillies edition of the Blue Diamond Previews at Sandown on Monday.
The Robert Smerdon-trained juvenile is early favourite for next month’s $1 million Group One Blue Diamond after her impressive six length win on debut in the Inglis Banner at Moonee Valley in October.
The filly looms as Zahra’s headline ride for the autumn carnival.
“You find with horses that you never take them for granted because something small could go wrong, but she’s what my autumn is all about at the moment,” Zahra said.
“I’m just looking forward to her and hoping she can stay safe and sound and show the same ability she showed in the spring.
“And (if she can do that) you’d think she’s going to be in for a very good autumn.”
Fontiton is the odds-on favourite for Monday’s Preview in a field of 16 which includes five debutantes.
“You’d expect her to be very hard to beat just on her ability, but fitness-wise she’s got a heap of improvement to come,” Zahra said.
Fontiton pleased Zahra in a recent jump-out.
The daughter of Turffontein is at $4.60 in Blue Diamond betting ahead of the Mick Price-trained Secret Agenda ($5) who won stylishly at Moonee Valley last month.
She is due to make her reappearance in next month’s Blue Diamond Prelude.
Zahra also rides the Tony McEvoy-trained Affirmation first-up in Monday’s Manfred Stakes.
Zahra won on Affirmation at Caulfield in July and was pleased with what he saw from the three-year-old in a recent Sydney barrier trial with Kerrin McEvoy aboard.
“It was off-season and I don’t think he beat much but he gave me a really good feel the day I won on him,” Zahra said.
“He’s got to do it against better horses, but the initial feel he gave me was that I think he can progress to better races.”