Zaaki further staked his claim as a deserving Cox Plate favourite after another dominant win, claiming his second Australian Group 1 victory in the Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown on Saturday.
After setting the world alight in Queensland over the Winter, winning the Hollindale Stakes, Doomben Cup and The Q22, Annabel Neasham’s galloper returned to Sydney for a terrific win in the Tramway Stakes before sending him to Melbourne in a bid to win the Moonee Valley feature.
With just four opponents in the $1 million race, Zaaki started as one of the shortest priced favourites in the history of Australian Group 1 racing, saluting at an official odds of $1.18.
Ridden by Craig Williams, Zaaki was kept out of trouble and sat outside Fifty Stars in the lead in what was a tactical affair.
The 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate is going to be some race 👀
A dominant win by ZAAKI today and a classic edition of the WFA Championship awaits #LEGENDARY
— Cox Plate Carnival (@CoxPlate) September 25, 2021
“It was lovely,” Williams told Racing.com.
“I just love the preparation, the planning that Annabel has got for Zaaki.”
“Not only am I blessed to ride him, but great to see him here in Victoria for three Group 1s and of course the target is the Cox Plate.”
“I would say after his gallop and today, that Annabel has got this horse right where she wants him for his main target to be in two more starts.”
Zaaki has now won five consecutive races by a cumulative margin of 14.25 lengths, which has Williams thinking that the horse “knows he’s good” and one of the better Weight For Age horses that he has ever ridden.
“Oh he’s good,” the jockey said.
“The thing that’s for me that makes him feel so good is he … I think he reads his form, and he knows he’s good and he pumps his chest up.”
“When the jockey gets on and when it gets to race day, he is a real racehorse.”
“In the morning on his own, he just floats around.”
“Obviously he covers the ground that well; he’s that athletic that you don’t actually realise what he’s actually doing to his opposition.”
“Probabeel, even the four that lined up today, they’re all Group 1 winners, but he’s really exciting and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Due to current border closures, it is unknown if James McDonald will be able to travel from Sydney to Melbourne for the Cox Plate where he is booked to ride Zaaki, so Williams will be aiming to repeat the dose in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) in a fortnight in his bid to retain the ride in the Cox Plate.
Zaaki is now a $2 favourite with online bookmakers for the 2040m feature on October 23, with a number of ‘all-in’ punters rejoicing on Friday after TAB paid out all tickets that were placed before 8am Friday on Zaaki to win the Cox Plate in a month’s time.