The roar of the crowd went up at Flemington when the well-backed favourite Zaaki hit the button 300m out from the line to fly home and win the fourth edition of the $5 million The All-Star Mile (1600m).
It was a perfectly executed ride by Jamie Kah aboard the top elect in the world’s richest mile race, which returned to its inaugural home at headquarters this autumn, and everything went to plan.
There were some early queries during the week when the spring’s Mackinnon Stakes champ drew the carpark (barrier 15 of 15) in The All-Star Mile field, but they rallied for him late and the betting was spot-on on the day.
Zaaki got into a nice position up on the speed outside of the leader Callsign Mav thanks to an aggressive early move to cross from the outside alley by Kah, before moving up to lay down the challenge inside the final 400m.
When Kah asked for a supreme effort on the straight, the evergreen seven-year-old responded beautifully and Zaaki ($2.40F) put The All-Star Mile result beyond doubt over the final furlong.
In the end the champion had one and a half-lengths to spare over I’m Thunderstruck ($8.50) who was brave from the inside alley to come from worse than mid-field late to run into second.
“It’s great to see the horse win, he deserves it so much, he puts in 110% every time,” stable representative Todd Pollard told Racing.com.
“Just full credit to the horse and to the team at home.
“It’s such a good reward.
“He’s just such a great animal. He’s so easy to deal with.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s amazing.”
The surprise finisher rounding out The All-Star Mile trifecta was Shane Nichols’ 200/1 roughie Streets Of Avalon in a supreme effort from the horse who had previously run 12th and 7th respectively in the same race the past two years.
The stage is now set for one of the most exciting editions of the $4 million Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in Sydney on April 9, which looks the next-up target for Zaaki.
There at Royal Randwick he will face Saturday’s seven-length Rosehill Guineas winner Anamoe, who could be in for another run in between having been so brilliant over the 2000m on Golden Slipper Day.
Zaaki is the current $5 third favourite in all-in Queen Elizabeth Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au trailing Anamoe and Verry Elleegant who will be out to atone for her second as the beaten odds-on favourite in the Ranvet Stakes behind Montefilia.
Looking further ahead and the stable are also keen to atone for his scratching as favourite on race morning in last year’s Group 1 $5 million Cox Plate (2040m) this October.
“It was the lowest of lows, so disappointing,” Pollard said.
“Hopefully we’ll be back in the Cox Plate this year, there’s unfinished business.”