Zouatica passes The Big Dance 2024 distance test

A $3 million race at Randwick on Melbourne Cup day is the long-range target for Zouatica, who has taken his record to six wins from twelve starts with a stylish frontrunning display at Gosford.

The four-year-old was being aimed towards the Country Championships Final (1400m) on the opening day of the Randwick carnival but narrowly failed to make the cut, connections instead taking the opportunity to stretch him to 1600m on Wednesday.

“We’ve been looking forward to getting him to the mile,” co-trainer Paul Jones told Sky Racing.

“We’ve been hanging around this 1400 with the big attraction of the Country Championships, but that wasn’t to be.

“He got to the mile today and he ran it right out. On the line he was holding the second and third horses, so it was good to see.”

Zouatica has already passed the first qualifying clause for the Big Dance with his Moruya Cup victory in January and Jones’ next focus is to improve his rating to secure a place in the field.

If Zouatica doesn’t make it, the $750,000 Little Dance (1600m) on the Melbourne Cup day undercard will be a lucrative back-up.

“He’s eligible for either the Big or Little Dance, the Big Dance is the big money but it’s a carrot either way,” Jones said.

“He will have one more run towards May and our timing works out so he can have two months off and come back and go third-up into the Big Dance or Little Dance.”

Zouatica was ridden by three kilo-claiming apprentice Anna Roper, who made it a double a race later aboard the Kim Waugh-trained Bethencourt before snaring her first metropolitan treble when victorious aboard Memoria for Kris Lees in the final event.

In a notable training performance, Bethencourt was having his first start since May after undergoing surgery to a fetlock and Waugh said it was great to have him back and winning races.

“He had an operation on his fetlock about ten months ago, he had screws put in it and they didn’t know if he’d ever get back to the races, so to be back first-up and winning over the mile has been a really good effort from him,” Waugh said.

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