It’s all systems are go for Zaaki on the Queensland leg of his journey before a tilt at the Cox Plate on October 22.
The star seven-year-old hasn’t missed a beat on the track ahead of the $500,000 Hollindale Stakes (1800m) at Gold Coast Turf Club on Saturday.
His past two starts were brilliant runs – second in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes a half-length behind Nash Rawiller’s “ride of the century” on Think It Over at Randwick on April 9.
Before that, the evergreen stayer saluted by 1.5 lengths in fine fashion in the $5 million All Star Mile (1600m) at Flemington on March 19.
Annabel Neasham’s assistant Todd Pollard has been impressed with Zaaki’s work before Saturday, with the gelding also favourite to take out the Doomben Cup on May 21.
Zaaki is the defending Hollindale Stakes and Doomben Cup champion.
In a warning to the Hollindale Stakes field, the $1.65 favourite with Ladbrokes – and star stayer with almost $7 million in prizemoney – looks as good as ever.
“His work on Tuesday was very good,” Pollard told horsebetting.com.au.
“He seems to be in the right mindset heading into the run.
“We’re pretty happy with the way he is. He’s as good as he’s been for a long time.”
Pollard was impressed with the courage Zaaki showed in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
“He ran really well. It’s always tough running second, but it was a very brave effort,” he said.
“He’s bounced out of that good and I’m looking forward to this run and hopefully making amends.”
Zaaki finished second that day on a Heavy 10. Better conditions are expected on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
“He showed he could still handle the heavy track, which we won’t see on Saturday,” Pollard said.
“There’s still a bit of rain forecast for the next day or two and it has been pretty wet.
“It’s not going to be a dry track, but even if it’s a bit wet it won’t be as bad as it was for the Queen Elizabeth.”
Leading New South Wales jockey James McDonald will pilot Zaaki on Saturday.
The two combined brilliantly last year to prevail in the Hollindale Stakes, Doomben Cup, Q22, Tramway and Mackinnon Stakes.
“He (McDonald) showed what he did on the horse in the Hollindale last year. He announced himself on the scene and showed what a promising horse he can be,” Pollard said.
“And he’s lived up to it since. Hopefully he can do the same on Saturday.
“He’ll stay up here and it’s two weeks until the Doomben Cup – that’s the main target.
“After that we’ll just keep things open. The Cox Plate in the spring is the main target.”
The Neasham stable will also have two-year-old West Of Africa lining up in the $150,000 Ken Russell Memorial Classic (1200m) on the Gold Coast on Saturday.
Pollard has a high opinion of him after he won his $35,000 maiden for two-year-olds over 1200m at Newcastle on March 17.
“He’s a really nice colt. He’s still quite raw. The way he’s drawn (barrier 14) isn’t ideal,” Pollard said.
“But he should’ve taken a lot of experience from his debut effort and come on from it.
“He’s going to have to go back and come over the top of them, but we do think he’s got plenty of ability.
“On Saturday we’ll see how he goes. It’ll be a tough race.”
Meanwhile, Pollard has branched out and relocated to the Gold Coast to head up Neasham’s Gold Coast stable.
That stable was formerly Michael Costa’s, the young trainer vacating his operation to head to Dubai and link up with Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the owner of champion British galloper and two-time Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Addeybb.
“It’s been a great opportunity. We’ve got a good calibre of horses and staff,” Pollard said.
“I’ve moved up to the Gold Coast to run a stable up here, which is a good opportunity for me.
“This is the next step on the road. I’m excited to see what these next few years hold.
“It’ll fluctuate over the (Queensland) carnival, but we’ll take over Michael Costa’s boxes. At the moment there are about 30 in work.
“It’s a good time to be up here for the carnival, and then hopefully we can land a few winners and keep going well after the carnival finishes.
“I’ll be permanently based up here and I’ll run this operation.”
Pollard said he has learnt a lot from Neasham, with that knowledge to be valuable in his Gold Coast stable.
“She’s up here this weekend, and it’ll be a good chance for her to see the operation and horses that we’ve got from Michael and learn about them,” he said.
“I’m still Annabel’s assistant trainer. But to make more decisions will be good.
“But it’ll be business as usual in the same system following the way she trains, and I’ll implement it up here.
“Hopefully I’ll get some results.”
Zaaki’s odds in the 2022 Hollindale Stakes
Race 8 – #1 Zaaki (4)
7yo Gelding | T: Annabel Neasham | J: James McDonald (59kg)