THE Darren Weir stable hopes a return to jumps racing will reinvigorate the highly rated Now And Zen when he tries to defend his Somerled Classic Hurdle title at Oakbank on Monday.
Now and Zen shaped as one of the nation’s most promising hurdlers when he obliterated his rivals in the 2016 edition of the $100,000 feature race, powering clear to win by more than 10 lengths against a solid field that included this year’s rival Urban Explorer.
But the eight-year-old gelding has struggled to return to those heights after being struck down with colic.
His past two efforts on the flat have produced a 16-length ninth at Sandown and a last-start 10th, beaten almost 30 lengths, over 2400m at Bendigo on April 1.
Now And Zen won a hurdle trial at Cranbourne five days later but reports from that effort were mixed.
“Early on (after the colic) his form was really good but his past couple of runs he’s been ordinary,” Weir’s racing manager Jeremy Rogers said.
“We’re just hoping that jumping switches him on.
“I think it (the Classic Hurdle) is stronger this year, too.”
Now And Zen is rated a $7.50 chance in latest UBET fixed-odds markets for the Somerled Classic Hurdle (3600m), with the Patrick Payne-trained Angelology holding favouritism at $3.30.
Angelology has raced in fantastic form on the flat this campaign, winning first-up over 1950m at Morphettville on March 11 before a close-up second at Mornington a fortnight later.
The gelding tuned up for Monday’s hurdle with a stout third, beaten two lengths, in the $50,000 Oakbank Cup (2150m) on Saturday.
Warrnambool trainer Aaron Purcell saddles up $7.50 chance O’Ceirins Secret and said he couldn’t fault the last-start winner.
“A lot will depend on how he handles Oakbank and just how well the horse jumps,’’ Purcell said. “It can be tricky for horses there the first time but the horse is well.’’
Originally published as Now is time for Zen to deliver
SOURCE: newsnow sport