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Zuider Zee

Zuider Zee did well to keep on as well as he did in the Old Borough Cup at Haydock on Saturday to finish third, given that he had raced prominently in a race in which they went plenty fast enough through the early stages, and which probably favoured the horses that were held up.

He was just urged along a little by William Buick coming out of the stalls to take up a handy position, but he got caught on the heels of Merchant Of Dubai as that one took up a position just behind the leader Exemplary, so Buick settled Zuider Zee in fourth around the turn. David Probert set a good tempo on Exemplary, steadied it up leaving the back straight, where the field grouped together a touch, before he kicked on again as they levelled for home. Zuider Zee was third turning into the home straight and, although he was fairly hard ridden from three furlongs out, he moved to the front entering the final quarter mile and looked like he might go on and grind out victory. Bauer and Nehaam came and joined him on either side, however, coming to the final furlong, and it appeared that they would sweep on by, but to his credit Zuider Zee stuck at it grittily, just going down by a neck for second place.

The winner, second, fourth and fifth, Bauer, Nehaam, Ajaan and Tominator, were all held up, and it seems sitting so close to the strong pace disadvantaged Zuider Zee. Bauer and Nehaam were alongside each other at the top of the home straight in no better than ninth or 10th. The long-time leader Exemplary weakened right out of it in the straight, finishing 14th of the 16 runners, and the well-backed Merchant Of Dubai, who had sat in second place, could finish only eighth, beaten over 11 lengths. Zuider Zee was the only one who raced prominently and got involved in the finish. The front three were clear, and the next two were also clear. It seems that this was a race that favoured those at the top of the weights too, the best horses largely came out on top: Bauer, Nehaam, Ajaan and Tominator were all in the top five in the handicap, so again Zuider Zee deserves credit for getting involved from lower down the weights. Bauer and Nehaam especially, the top two in the weights, are classy horses. Bauer had been just touched off in the 2008 Melbourne Cup and, as he had last year, badly needed his first run of the season. Zuider Zee’s stable companion Nehaam had run in the Dante as a three-year-old and had finished close up behind Akmal twice at the end of his three-year-old season before he was off for a while with injury.

Zuider Zee has always given the impression that he will prove best at this trip, or possibly even further. A German-bred, he is a half-brother to a Scandinavian champion who stayed 14 furlongs, and he proved here that he stays a mile and six furlongs well himself. He was fourth in the Melrose over the trip at three last year, and he could now improve over the distance. He remains progressive, he is one to note for the rest of the season, and longer term he could be a horse for the big staying handicaps next season. The handicapper raised him just 1lb to a mark of 93, and that could underestimate him considerably.

3rd September 2011