Punt Drunk: Zaaki no sure thing ahead of Cox Plate

The Friday edition of Punt Drunk is here and boy, oh boy, are we up and about for the Cox Plate Carnival over the next two days! We’ll dissect what is sure to be an elite Cox Plate, the below-par field assembled for the Manikato Stakes and just what has gone wrong with 2020 VRC Derby winner Johnny Get Angry.

Zaaki a vulnerable favourite ahead of Cox Plate tilt

Zaaki wins AD Hollindale Stakes
Zaaki is now a $3 favourite for Saturday’s Cox Plate

For the first time in months, the Annabel Neasham-trained Zaaki is $3 to claim Cox Plate glory. With the quote of $1.90 prior to his Caulfield Stakes defeat long gone, there is plenty to play out before Saturday afternoon. The forecast of rain arriving late Friday night and hanging around throughout Saturday brings Verry Elleegant right into calculations, whilst you cannot count out Caulfield Guineas winner Anamoe. Throw in Zaaki’s stablemate Mo’unga; you can get a better price for the place ($3.10) than what you do for Zaaki to win, and for a horse that finished off strongest behind Incentivise in the Makybe Diva Stakes.

Gold Trip has been ruled out having failed vet checks, then we have the unknown about the internationals State Of Rest and Callsign Mav, whilst roughies Captivant and Dalasan have every right to be in a field like this. The one we have left out is Zaaki’s conqueror from the Caulfield Stakes in Probabeel, who is likely to be scratched if the rain arrives and be aimed towards the Empire Rose Stakes.

It all shapes up to be a cracking race as always despite the likelihood of having just eight runners going around.

Is this year’s Manikato Stakes field worthy of Group 1 status?

Savatoxl is one of just two Group 1 winner’s ahead of Friday’s Manikato Stakes

Once the likes of Paulele, September Run and Brooklyn Hustle did not accept for the Manikato Stakes on Friday night, there was plenty of concern about the quality of field for what is usually one of the best sprint races in Melbourne’s spring. Outside of Savatoxl, who won The Goodwood, and Streets Of Avalon, who has won two Group 1s at 1400m, no one else has managed any top-tier success ahead of Friday’s feature. It leaves one of the biggest sprint races lacking some serious appeal. However, because we are a bunch of degenerates, we’ll load up on the progressive Lombardo from the in-form Mick Price & Michael Kent Jr yard and hopefully have a nice bank built ahead of Cox Plate Day.

Pagan at a crossroads with Johnny Get Angry

Johnny Get Angry
It has been a fair fall from grace for the Denis Pagan-trained Johnny Get Angry

Almost 12 months ago, Johnny Get Angry managed defeat the likes of Young Werther and Cherry Tortoni to claim the 2020 VRC Derby. Fast-track to Wednesday this week and he was beaten 19 lengths in the Geelong Cup and struggled to beat home someone like Rostropovich. It has been a fair fall from grace for the Group 1 winner, and it has left Denis Pagan scratching his head as he approaches the 12-month milestone to his biggest achievement as a trainer. Speaking with Racing.com following Johnny’s performance on Wednesday, Pagan said, “Everything I touched last year turned to gold and everything I touch this year is turning to cow manure.”

If you’re a footy fan, you know Pagan isn’t one to give up easily. However, this is one almighty challenge trying to get Johnny Get Angry back to somewhere near the level that saw him claim Group 1 glory last spring.

Punt Drunk

About Punt Drunk

Welcome to Punt Drunk! Our new daily column covering all the latest horse racing and punting controversies, dramas and headline news. Have a story or gripe or issue that just grinds your gears? Just hit us up in the comments or contact us page and our jaded, punt hardened Punt Drunk staff will give it the Punt Drunk treatment it deserves. Don’t expect pleasantries or typical racing media fanboy gloss from Punt Drunk – we’re on the punt and we don’t have time to bullshit; the next is about to jump…

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