Zawraq’s stamina is million-dollar question going into Derby

Dermot Weld’s colt will be in virgin territory over a mile and a half at Epsom classic

Zawraq ridden by Pat Smullen comes home to win the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes in April ahead of Endless Drama, which finished second in the Irish Guineas at the weekend. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Zawraq ridden by Pat Smullen comes home to win the Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes in April ahead of Endless Drama, which finished second in the Irish Guineas at the weekend. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Dermot Weld describes Zawraq’s stamina as a “million dollar question” going into next week’s Epsom Derby, but a positive answer in racing’s ‘blue-riband’ could be all but priceless.

Zawraq’s two career starts have been at seven furlongs as a two-year-old, and an impressive defeat of Endless Drama over a mile in mid-April, form that got significantly boosted by Endless Drama’s Irish Guineas second at the weekend.

However a mile and a half at Epsom will be virgin territory for a colt who is a clear 5-1 second favourite behind Golden Horn in the Derby betting, yet, significantly, is now right where his trainer wants him to be again after a slight hold up earlier this month.

“He just had a little hold up so we sat tight for a few days and now I’m very happy with where he is,” Weld said.

“He could have run in the Derrinstown afterwards, but it would have been the wrong thing to do. He would have had a tough race on heavy ground so we avoided it. So we know we have a very good miler and the million dollar question is whether or not he will stay a mile and a half.

Pedigree

“So we’ll keep ticking over until Epsom. There will be nothing dramatic in terms of his work. We want to keep him relaxed. The only place I’m going to try and find out if he stays a mile and a half is at Epsom,” the Curragh trainer added.

Victory for Zawraq at Epsom would crown Weld’s legendary career. The closest he has come to date was Casual Conquest’s third to New Approach in 2008. The Guineas winner Refuse To Bend started favourite in 2003 but finished out of the money behind Kris Kin, while it is 30 years since Theatrical was seventh to Slip Anchor.

Weld’s Fascinating Rock was eighth to Australia in last year’s Derby, but that horse put in a career-best effort on Sunday when runner-up to Al Kazeem in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, and now has a long-term target of October’s Champion Stakes at Ascot.

“He does like soft ground and if we’d had a shower on Saturday night I think he might have won by a neck instead of being beaten a neck,” the trainer said. “He’s going on his summer holidays now and in terms of plans we will work back from the Champion Stakes at Ascot.”

JP McManus could enjoy a bumper Monday evening at a Ballinrobe card where the powerful owner has at least one runner in every race bar the bumper.

Three of McManus’s 10 declarations are due to line up in the principal €30,000 handicap hurdle and Marchese Marconi looks a leading contender.

Aidan O’Brien’s runner has Mark Walsh on his back, and his stable companion Plinth on top of the ratings, both pointers towards a horse who should relish better ground conditions after a decent effort at the Punchestown festival.

Green and gold

Off The MarkThe Gatechecker

No Kidding belied 66-1 odds on his first handicap start at Limerick when only behind Accordion Twilight and no such price will be available in the first handicap hurdle.

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