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12/06/02 Cheeky Zabenz to Tackle Feature Hurdles
Aquanita trainer Robert Smerdon will test his budding jumper Zabenz against the leading hurdlers in the country after he made a winning debut to his jumps career at Flemington on Monday.

A four-year-old gelding by Zabeel, Zabenz is regarded as "cheeky" by his trainer Robert Smerdon, who finished the day with a winning double.

Smerdon said Zabenz would have his next start at Moonee Valley on Saturday week before heading to the Grand National Hurdle. He will not run in this weekend's Australian Hurdle at Sandown.

"It may be a little ambitious to test him up against the best already, but I think these days you can get away with it," Smerdon said.

"The big jumps races aren't as tough as they used to be and you don't really have to be as seasoned as you used to be back in previous years."

Zabenz, who'd only won one of his 22 starts on the flat before his jumps triumph, outstayed the Robbie Laing trained Zidane in Monday's Henry Bolte Trial Hurdle (2840m) winning in strong style by over two lengths.

Having spent time with leading New Zealand trainer Roger James and the Broadmeadow based Paul Perry, Zabenz has now found his home at Smerdon's stable in Victoria.

After gaining his ticket with a good jumping display in a schooling session at Yarra Glen, Zabenz was well backed late in betting on Monday to start the $4 favourite.

"He just bounded over the jumps at Yarra Glen," Smerdon said. "He's taken to the jumping caper really, really well."

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