Zaaki kicks off Cox Plate campaign with Tramway Stakes win

Zaaki wins AD Hollindale Stakes

Cox Plate favourite Zaaki resumed in Saturday’s Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Royal Randwick in ultra-impressive fashion, winning by over a length to extend his winning streak to four.

The seven-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux stamped himself as a leading contender for October 23’s Moonee Valley feature with convincing wins in the Hollindale Stakes, Doomben Cup and The Q22 during the Brisbane Winter Carnival.

Zaaki was sent around in the Tramway Stakes as an easing $2.30 favourite on Saturday and won by 1.5 lengths over the fast-finishing Aramayo.

Having picked up right where he left off in Queensland, Annabel Neasham’s star runner now looks set to head to Melbourne in preparation for some lofty spring goals.

“A bit of relief, to tell you the truth,” Neasham told Sky Racing.

“I knew he was going well leading into this, but I just wondered whether (1400m) would be a little bit short of his best.

“He’s obviously got plenty of improvement left in him, so we should be in for a really exciting campaign.”

Zaaki kicked off his Australian career with an eye-catching run in the Doncaster Handicap in the autumn when flashing into sixth place despite being $101.

The former English galloper then disappointed at his next start when second as a short-priced favourite, but was subsequently disqualified from that event, before going to Queensland and winning three straight races.

Neasham has a big opinion of the horse, saying she has always been confident in his ability.

“I was quite confident with him – I know he was paying 100/1 in the Doncaster – but I was pretty confident leading into that race and he was probably the same today,” she said.

“Just the last couple of weeks, I’ve just really noticed the change in him; he’s got a couple of little quirks.

“The fresher he gets, the better he is, and I’ve just seen that side of him over the last couple of weeks.”

No plans have been set in stone yet as to where Zaaki races next, with Neasham tossing up between a race over 1600m or heading to Melbourne for the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m), but the trainer admits it’s “a little bit” scary to think how much improvement is left in the horse going forward.

“We’ll just see how he pulls up and work that out next week,” Neasham said.

“Obviously there’s a few logistics to work out if he is to go down to Melbourne.

“He’ll certainly have one run down there before the Cox Plate, it’s whether he has two, but we’ll let the dust settle, see how he comes through and look, he’s going to be hard to beat wherever he goes.”

Zaaki was once again ridden by champion jockey James McDonald, who was full of praise of the horse and insisted “anyone could have won on him today”.

“He was electric, put a good field to shame and did it easily,” McDonald told Sky Racing.

“He just oozes a lot of confidence and he’s going through the grades really well.

“He’s just a very confident, confident horse and I’ve rode him when I got beat on him here and he didn’t give me that same feel as he did up in Queensland.

“It was like that Hollindale (win) just sparked him and he now he struts around like he owns the joint and he knows he’s King Kong.”

Given the current border closures surrounding New South Wales, McDonald looks unlikely to retain the ride in Melbourne as Zaaki heads to the Cox Plate.

“God help us these borders open,” he said.

“It’s obviously up to Annabel to set him a track to the Cox Plate.

“He’ll be there with flying colours on I would’ve thought.”

Zaaki is a $2.80 favourite in the 2021 Cox Plate betting market at Sportsbet.

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