Trainer Michael Maker and owner Michael Hui have a shared sense of optimism that seven-time graded-stakes winner Zulu Alpha will race again.
The eight-year-old has been forced to miss the defence of his Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational crown at Gulfstream Park later this month owing to a persisting issue with an ankle.
Zula Alpha hasn’t raced since September when he came in third in the Kentucky Cup Turf Stakes (G3) on a soaked, heavy racetrack at Kentucky Downs.
He was slated to appear in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland in early November but the swelling around his ankle put paid to those plans.
The $1m Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational was thought to be a potential return-date but connections elected not to ship him to Gulfstream in December to begin preparing for that race.
“He just has a little ankle injury,” Maker said, “and we’re giving him all the time he needs.
“It’s the nature of the beast,” he added. “It’s disappointing, but that victory last year, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m grateful for that one.”
Inevitably after a couple of setbacks and missed targets, talk turns towards whether or not the eight-year-old can be expected to make a complete recovery. There’s no certainties in racing but Maker believes Zula Alpha will race again, all things being equal.
Asked whether he’s confident that Zula Alpha will make it back to the races this season, he responded: “Yeah, but with horses nothing is ever 100 per-cent.”
For now, it remains a simple case of rest and recuperate for Zula Alpha. Given the nature of his problem, only the passage of time will aid his recovery.
Hui pays the bills and he sees nothing to prevent his charge coming back to race again.
“I’m optimistic,” Hui said. “The optimism is really high.”
Zulu Alpha has already scooped over $2.2m in career earnings having been claimed by Hui for $80,000 at Churchill Downs in September 2018. The owner gained his first Grade 1 success in the Pegasus Turf last January, a convincing winner from none other than Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotting multiple Grade 1 winner Magic Wand.
He also won the Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream last year and is four-from-six at the South Florida track in his career. Gulfstream’s Championship Meet later in the spring is an obvious target give Zulu Alpha’s fine record there but Hui says a return to the racetrack won’t be rushed.
“If he makes it [Championship Meet], he makes it,” he said. “We’re in no hurry.”
The owner added that the top priority is to ensure that Zulu Alpha “has the quality of life he deserves” going forward after his effort on the course.