By Ray Hickson
Trainer Annabel Neasham sees no reason why talented import Zaaki won’t consolidate his outstanding Australian debut effort in the Doncaster Mile by posting a confidence boosting win at Randwick on Saturday.
The six-year-old’s effort in finishing sixth behind Cascadian after drawing the outside in the 19 horse field went far from unnoticed and despite his $61 starting price ran right up to Neasham’s expectation.
It’ll be some 610 days since Zaaki’s last win, at York in August 2019, come Saturday so on the back of that impressive local debut the Group 3 $160,000 Sharp Extensive IT JRA Plate (2000m), where he was $2.40 favourite with TAB on Thursday, appears an ideal target.
“I wouldn’t have been surprised if he ran top three and with a bit more luck or a better gate he probably would have,’’ Neasham said.
“If he can produce what he did first-up in the Donnie he’s going to be a leading contender.
“It does everybody’s confidence, including the horse, good to win so you always want to get their head in front when you can. It can take them a prep or so to settle into it but so far he looks like he’s adapted fairly quickly.”
Zaaki sprinted the last 200m of the Doncaster in 11.87 (Punter’s Intelligence), which was among the top five of the day and only 0.09 outside Masked Crusader’s finishing burst at the end of the 1200m TJ Smith.
He carried 53.5kg in the Group 1 so naturally rises in weight for the drop in class but Neasham said 59kg isn’t a concern, especially with premier hoop James McDonald riding, and is predicting a bright future.
“His work has been very good. I do think he will end up winning a very nice race over here,’’ she said.
“We’re back to a lesser grade so he is entitled to carry that bit more weight and hopefully J-Mac offsets that.
“He’s come through the Donnie well, he’s a bit more settled as he was very fresh going into the race.
“It’s probably knocked the edge off him which will be no bad thing stepping up to the 2000m.”
Tactics in the Doncaster were dictated by the outside barrier so Neasham said she hasn’t been able to formulate an ideal racing pattern for Zaaki and will defer to McDonald’s steering.
However she feels he can take advantage of the kinder draw on Saturday.
“I don’t have any set plan, he will be ridden where he’s comfortable,’’ she said.
“If they go quick he’ll probably be further back, if they don’t from that gate he could be further forward. He’s only had one start with us and drew 19 so we had to ride him quiet.”
Zaaki runs sixth in the Doncaster Mile at Randwick on April 10
Youngster Queen Of Wizardry is a lot more respected in the market for the Group 1 $500,000 Moet & Chandon Champagne Stakes (1600m), $11 with TAB, than she was in running fifth at $41 in the Sires’ two weeks ago and Neasham is predicting a peak performance.
The filly was beaten seven lengths by Anamoe, who won by three and won’t be there on Saturday, on a soft 7 track and Neasham is thrilled that Doncaster Mile winning jockey Jamie Kah wanted to stick with her as she steps up to a mile.
“Her win was on top of the ground so we’re happy to go back to that surface but I think more to the point she’s been looking for a mile,’’ Neasham said.
“The top two in the market (Hilal and Captivant) look good progressive horses and if they can run the mile will be hard to beat but my horse is the obvious one that wants the extra distance.
“It looks a really open race, this has been her grand final since the day after the Magic Millions so she will be peaking.”