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He’s Da Boss

12 December 2022 Written by VRC

Since recovering from a throat operation and being reinvented as a sprinter, Zac De Boss won two of his five starts down the Flemington straight six course over winter. He also gave his trainer, Simon Zahra, his first win since going out on his own in his business.

There is a special synergy between born-again sprinter Zac De Boss and his trainer Simon Zahra, not to mention a canny sense of timing to the rejuvenation.

Eighteen months ago Zac De Boss presented as a young horse with a bright future, a lightly raced three-year-old with an engine and the Australian Guineas on his calendar.

“He’d always shown ability early, and we sort of didn’t know what he was initially. He’s by Zacinto so the thought was here’s a 1400-metre horse that will get a mile to a real good standard, but as it sometimes happens, things went wrong,” said Zahra.

Then trained by Zahra in partnership with his cousin Mat Ellerton, Zac De Boss made a noise one day that sent a shiver down the trainer’s spine.

“He came back after a race and you could hear it a mile away. It was horrific. His throat just went on him and he was a full on roarer,” Zahra explained.

A “roarer” is a term given to horses with a severe throat failure, the muscles of the throat collapse either partially or entirely and block the airway, creating a husky roaring noise when the horse breathes under exercise.

So off Zac De Boss went for surgery, with trainers and owners First Light Racing, hopeful that their promising horse could recover.

After a 43-week spell, Zac returned to work, this time under the care of Zahra alone; he had just ventured out on his own after the two decades long partnership with Ellerton came to an end.

“Mat and I trained together for 21 years, we are great mates but that’s a bloody long time and we were ready for a change,” he said.

First Light Racing had around 12 horses in work with the partnership and split the horses between both Ellerton and Zahra, with whom they had enjoyed much success – most notably with VRC Oaks winner Aristia.

Zac De Boss landed on Zahra’s side of the split.

“The operation was a success, but the horse was just pulling so hard in his races, obviously the memory of that blocked throat was still with him and he was just running on anxiety,” said Zahra.

“That pretty well put an end to plans of getting him to a mile. I had to reinvent him as a sprinter.”

At the same time, Zahra was reinventing himself as a trainer. Rebranding his business, setting up new structures, tinkering with training programs and introducing himself to new owners. It was back to square one for a man who had spent 35 years in the business.

“I started in racing at 15 or 16, it’s all I’ve done, but here I am now at 50 starting all over again,” he said.

“You have to think differently about what you’re doing, it’s a totally new challenge but it’s given me a new lease on life at 50.”

Zac De Boss still has youth on his side as a four-year-old, but his reinvention has been just as successful.

Switched back to sprinting in February, Zac De Boss won twice down the Flemington straight six course over winter. One of those victories was Zahra’s first winner at Flemington in his own right, under his new banner.

Improving young stayer winner Duke Of Hastings and sprinting mare Little Stevie, who put up back to back wins at Caulfield in June and August, are the latest metropolitan winners for Zahra who continues to make a strong fist of his new solo career.

Support has continued from First Light Racing who supported him with more yearlings this season. New syndicator Donald’s Winners has also thrown their support behind Zahra as the new phase of his career begins.

He has maintained a presence at Flemington with stables on course as well as a small farm, Zahra Lodge, at Kyneton.

“I’m really enjoying myself, I reckon it will take me 12 months to really get going but we will get there. I’m bloody excited to be honest.”