Harlem on song for tilt at Cup history
UNDERRATED stayer Harlem is poised to reward Lindsay Park's faith with an unprecedented third victory in the Group 1 Australian Cup, co-trainer Ben Hayes says.
A veteran of 38 starts, French import Harlem boasts five victories, four at black-type level, including two Australian Cups and a Group 3 Naturalism Stakes in his adopted country.
Hayes says history proves the eight-year-old is an autumn horse, hence the stable's confidence heading into Saturday's $1.5 million weight-for-age 2000m contest.
"He's a horse that at this time of year he comes good," Hayes said.
"We were absolutely thrilled with his last run (a close fifth in the Peter Young Stakes) and was a bit unlucky.
"I feel he would have been a lot closer if the runs had opened.
"It was a perfect Australian Cup run, really strong through the line. If he draws a good gate, he'll be a good chance."
Harlem is an $11 chance with Ladbrokes, behind $5 favourite Kings Will Dream, Regal Power ($6), Avilius ($6), Vow And Declare ($7), Mirage Dancer ($7) and Fifty Stars ($8.50) before Wednesday's final acceptances.
Lindsay Park will also start Fifty Stars (John Allen), Constantinople (Glen Boss) and Cape Of Good Hope (Regan Bayliss).
Jamie Kah will reunite with Harlem on Saturday, having guided the gelding to a second Cup boilover at $31 last year.
Michael Walker was aboard Harlem when he triumphed as a $61 hope in 2018.
Harlem underwent minor surgery to remove a small growth in his throat after finishing 12th of 16 in the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington in November.
The Australian Cup has been won twice by only a handful of gallopers in more than 150 years.
Multiple victors include Harlem, Northerly (2001, 2003), Vo Rogue (1989, '90), Ming Dynasty (1978, '80), Craftsman (1965-66), Welkin Prince (1962-63) and Woodman (1865-66).
BIG SPRINT SUITS ZOUTORI'S STYLE
SIMON Zahra has handled enough sprinters to instinctively identify the Flemington "naturals" from those unsuited to Australian racing's most celebrated straight course.
Zoutori falls into the former category, having caught Zahra and co-trainer Mathew Ellerton's eye with a charging Group 2 Bobbie Lewis Quality (1200m) victory last spring
From the moment the gelding hit the line on September 14, Zahra had one race in mind - Saturday's $1.25 million Newmarket Handicap.
"The Newmarket has been our goal with him ever since he first went up the straight," Zahra said.
"The race is what we've had in mind all along.
'He's the right kind of horse for it.
"He travels well in the run, he's got a great turn of foot and he loves racing up the straight.
"The track conditions won't bother him if there's been rain. Flemington handles the rain well anyway, but he can cope with the sting out of the ground.
"He's worked super this week and we think he's definitely improved off his first-up run.
"To be honest, we can't have him any better."
Ellerton and Zahra have handled a string of great sprinters over the years, including Oakleigh Plate winner Booker, while Ellerton trained two Oakleigh Plate winners - River Dove and Miss Kournikova.
Zahra said Zoutori was "probably as good a sprinter as we've ever had."
"He's right up there with horses like Desert Sky and Black Bean, who've been through the place," he said.
Zoutori is an $11 chance with Ladbrokes behind Loving Gaby ($4.40), Exceedance ($5) and Bivouac ($5) ahead of acceptances.
Alabama Express, who finished last in the Australian Guineas, has been ruled out of the Newmarket after succumbing to a virus.
The colt was floated to Werribee for treatment after displaying a high temperature.