Mark Walker’s 1000th New Zealand winner is also his Thousand Guineas runner
Zourion already holds a special place in Mark Walker's career, but she has a chance to further endear herself to the decorated Kiwi trainer this Saturday at Caulfield.
The daughter of Zoustar will chase Group 1 success in the $1.5 million Group 1 Thousand Guineas (1600m).
Zourion became Walker's 1000th winner in New Zealand when she won on debut at Taupo on February 7, a win she followed up with victory in the Group 2 Matamata Breeders' Stakes (1200m).
That performance confirmed to Walker and Cambridge Stud owners Brendan and Jo Lindsay and chief executive Henry Plumptre that Zourion was worthy of being put on a Group 1 path, with the Thousand Guineas identified as the prime spring target.
"We had a chat after the Matamata Breeders Stakes with Brendan, Jo and Henry and this was the program we mapped out," Walker said.
"She had a nice, decent break after that and hopefully the plan comes off on Saturday."
Zourion's Guineas campaign started with a sixth placing in the Group 3 Champagne Stakes (1200m) at The Valley before a meritorious third placing in the Group 2 Thousand Guineas Prelude (1400m).
She endured a wide run that day but boxed on to be nosed out of second spot, just 1-1/4 lengths behind Coeur Volante, and the way she not only handled that run, but came through it, has Walker confident she is a genuine winning chance this weekend.
"She's really thrived since her good run in the Guineas Trial," Walker said.
"She got a tough run and really toughed it out to the line in that race.
"She's still very lightly-raced, a little bit green, and on raceday she can get on her toes a little bit, but she's learning all the time and it's just got a really good sense of timing about it."
Michael Dee retains the ride for the Guineas and victory would justify the decision to go to NZ$475,000 for Zourion, who is out of the Danroad mare Irion, at last year's Karaka Yearling Sale.
"She's got a beautiful pedigree, bred by Sir Peter Vela at Pencarrow Stud, and she was an expensive yearling but she's already added to that value," Walker said.
"If we could pull Saturday off, she'd be worth ten-fold what they paid for her."