Mark Zahra has been locked in for Chris Waller’s star mare Verry Elleegant in the spring

Chris Waller’s star mare Verry Elleegant won’t be tackling the Cox Plate and Mark Zahra has won the ace Caulfield Cup ride because of his soft hands.

Four-time Group I winner Verry Elleegant will race in the Group I Turnbull Stakes on Saturday week and then it will be onwards and upwards towards the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.

James McDonald has ridden her to all of her Group I triumphs but the Sydney hoop is unlikely to be available in Melbourne for the spring due to COVID-19 jockey restrictions.

The Waller team has settled on Zahra as his replacement.

Verry Elleegant has her quirks and part-owner Brae Sokolski said it was important to have a senior jockey who could get the best out of her for Turnbull Stakes and Caulfield Cup missions.

“Zahra is not only an elite Group 1 jockey but we feel his soft hands will be perfectly suited to the mare who has a well-documented history of overdoing things if not ridden kindly,” Sokolski said.

Verry Elleegant in an exhibition gallop this year in Sydney.Source:Getty Images

Verry Elleegant returned from a break in sensational fashion to win the Group 1 Winx Stakes at Randwick in August before performing well below market expectations when finishing fourth in the George Main Stakes last Saturday.

She had been a $17 chance in the Cox Plate but that race is now off the table with the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups her primary focus.

“While there is no doubt Verry Elleegant would be in the Cox Plate up to her ears, we are hellbent on preserving her longevity, recognising that while she has matured dramatically in the last 12 months, she is still not the most robust of horses,” Sokolski said.

“Trying to take on all three majors in the space of one preparation would simply not be in her best interests.”


Verry Elleegant is a $5 chance for the Turnbull Stakes on Saturday week.

She is rated an $11 chance in the Caulfield Cup and $21 for the Melbourne Cup.

Zahra will be on the mare for her next two starts but no jockey at this stage has been locked in for the Melbourne Cup.

Originally published asSoft hands Zahra wins Verry Elleegant spring ride

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