Zurella to stake spring claim in QE Stakes
Caryl Williamson
16:14 AEST Fri Apr 26 2013

Shaune Ritchie knows Zurella is capable of winning a Group One race. He also knows it won't be this weekend but he's using the Queen Elizabeth Stakes as a guide to her spring prospects.

The quirky mare ran a solid fifth in the Coolmore Classic last month and Ritchie took her home to New Zealand where she started favourite in the Easter Handicap only to put in a poor performance for which the trainer blamed himself.

She is back in Sydney where she takes on Australasia's new superstar It's A Dundeel in the 2000m Group One at Randwick on Saturday.

"It's a nice old task," Ritchie said.

"She's long odds and deserves to be. I'm aware of that but she has shown glimpses of brilliance throughout her career and the owners want to run her in Melbourne again in the spring so we'd like to see where she sits in this company.

"She's won Group Two races on both sides of the Tasman and if she could run into a place in a Group One that would help her future as she's extremely well bred."

Her best performance in Australia was last spring when she won the Let's Elope Stakes at Flemington but her Caulfield Cup hopes were dashed by two subsequent unplaced runs.

Zurella, who is raced by the Oaks Stud, is by Zabeel and her granddam Miss Trump is a half-sister to Lonhro.

Ritchie was extremely pleased with her Coolmore effort where she finished less than a length from the winner Appearance but her 11th of 16 in the Easter Handicap is a run he would rather forget.

"She's a natural stayer and I tried to freshen her for the 1600 metres," he said.

"I think I under-trained her. It was too short."

Ritchie admits Zurella mixes her form, and he's not always sure why.

"I think she could best be described as cantankerous," he said.

"She's a lady with attitude but there is a good race in her. And being by Zabeel she is getting better as she gets older.

"I hope so anyway."

Craig Newitt takes the reins in the Queen Elizabeth for which three-year-old It's A Dundeel is the odds-on favourite to become the first of his age to win the race since Intergaze 14 years ago.

It's A Dundeel will be shooting for his fifth Group One win of the season and his first against older horses.

The colt won the Spring Champion Stakes and took this year's autumn triple crown, winning the Australian Derby with ease.

His trainer Murray Baker came close to claiming the Derby-Queen Elizabeth double in 2008 when Nom Du Jeu went down to Sarrera by a head.

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