Promising stayer Zuma Roc has earned at crack at the Tasmanian Derby after storming home from last to land the New Years Eve Classic Final at Moonee Valley.
Race plans went awry when jockey Andrew Mallyon gave up trying for a forward position when Zuma Roc got trapped wide early but the colt answered the challenge in Saturday night’s 2040-metre event.
The three-year-old went away in the straight to fight out the finish with last-start Caulfield winner Westsouthwest and lunged to score by a short head and give his 30-year-old Mornington trainer Neil Walsh his biggest win.
“This a huge thrill,” said Walsh, who has been training for 10 years. “I’m absolutely stoked.”
Walsh said times had been tough the past two years with the stable weathering a run of bad luck and he is optimistic that Zuma Roc is the horse to turn his fortunes.
“Anyone who knows me knows it has been a rough couple of years and we have been struggling a bit but the owners of this horse have been absolutely fantastic, have stuck through thick and thin,” Walsh said.
“I think we have found them a really nice horse.
“We were actually hoping he would jump well and roll forward tonight so to do what he did (from last) was pretty huge.”
A son of Rock Of Gibraltar, Zuma Roc was a $70,000 yearling and was having only his fifth start on Saturday after minor placings at Warrnambool and Moonee Valley.
He was facing his first test beyond 1600 metres but the way he finished off suggests he will have no trouble handling the 2200 metres of the Tasmanian Derby on February 5.
“He just keeps getting better and better and we will certainly look at Tassie if he pulls up well,” Walsh said.
“He is a magnificent horse to look at and he looks to be the real deal.”
Walsh said Zuma Roc was only in his first preparation and he hopes that he can be a spring contender in 2012.
“He is still big and raw and if we go to Tassie he will then have a really good break through to the spring,” Walsh said.