Trainer Annabel Neasham came up trumps with Zaaki in the big one of the day at the Gold Coast, the 1800m, Group 2 A.D. Hollindale Stakes.
The British import had two Group 3 successes to his credit in Britain (at Epsom and York) before relocating to Australia and this latest win came in his third local start.
Neasham has certainly backed Zaaki’s talent, sending him into battle first-up in no less a contest than the Group 1 Doncaster (where he finished sixth) and then into the Group 3 JRA Plate, where he put the writing on the wall for this win with a highly creditable second placing, finishing just 0.20 lengths behind Paths Of Glory.
Backed in from $4.60 to $3.60 with Sportsbet, James McDonald made a bit of use of the six-year-old gelding early from the wide number 12 barrier draw, so that by the time the field turned into the back stretch Zaaki was perfectly position in third just a couple of lengths off the lead, tracking right up behind the speed which was being set by Tiptronic and Shared Ambition … a position Zaaki maintained until approaching the home turn.
On straightening, Zaaki was just a length back and in clear running and McDonald allowed him to gradually find another gear. At the 200m mark though, it was all systems go and Zaaki turned on the charm for his followers, bounding away to win as he liked.
McDonald took a brief glance to his right to ensure there were no hidden dangers and then started to ease up on the winner short of the line which meant that the winning margin could well have been more than the official; 2.30 lengths had McDonald asked his horse for more.
Fifty Stars ($9) and Shared Ambition ($16) filled the minor placings.
“JMac is the best for a reason. It was a beautiful ride,” said Annabel Neasham. “I just left it to him.
“He was a little bit further forward than I thought, but it didn’t look like there was going to be a whole lot of speed.
“Once he got in that spot, I was quite confident he was going to be hard to beat. He has just been feeling so well this morning. He nearly bucked me off in the trotting ring this morning. I think that is when he is best … when he is fresh.
“Probably the most exciting thing about him … Michael Stoute trained him back in England and his team is adamant that he is much better on firm ground. They said he didn’t really like soft ground … so hopefully in the Doomben Cup, if we get firm ground, you might see an even better performance.”