Annabel Neasham‘s star import Zaaki proved himself a potential Cox Plate competitor in the spring with his powerhouse seven-length Group 1 $700,000 Channel 7 Doomben Cup (2000m) victory in Brisbane.
The imported son of Leroidesanimaux continued his rise through the ranks on the Australian turf handing his trainer her second career Group 1 success and proving himself a genuine elite level performer.
Zaaki enjoyed his first win down under third-up last start at the Gold Coast with a big victory in the Group 2 AD Hollindale Stakes (1800m) and went to another level going up to 2000m for the Doomben Cup.
He became the first horse to complete the Hollindale – Doomben Cup double since the mare Streama (2014) who was also the last Doomben Cup favourite to win before Zaaki broke the drought for the punters.
Ridden confidently by James McDonald, the hoop enjoying his 53rd career Group 1, the star six-year-old got into the perfect position second on the trail of the strong front-runner Brandenburg.
Going around at a nice pace, the heavily-backed favourite never looked in doubt, moving up to hit the front before the home turn and extending his winning margin with each stride towards the line.
In the end Zaaki ($2.25F) had seven lengths to spare over the surprise runner-up, Chris Waller’s former Schweppes Oaks winning mare Toffee Tongue ($18).
A further two and a quarter-lengths back rounding out the Doomben Cup trifecta in third was John Sargent’s brave pace-setter Brandenburg ($31).
“That was amazing. Wow,” Neasham told Channel 7 after the race.
“That was a brilliant ride.
“He (McDonald) was very confident.”
The Doomben Cup also saw two champion horses run their swansong races with Jamie Richard’s 14-time Group 1 winning Kiwi mare Melody Belle and dual Cox Plate placegetter Humidor who ran fifth and seventh respectively.
Neasham has options galore looking ahead to the spring with Zaaki, the Doomben Cup winner looking a nice chance for the Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 23.
“He’s run the 2000 (metres pretty easily),” she said.
“I can’t wait for the Cox Plate.
“He looks a proper Group 1 horse.”
All-in Cox Plate betting at Ladbrokes.com.au has Zaaki as the firming favourite in early markets at $6.
As for a likely next-up option, the Group 2 $1.2 million The Q22 (2200m) at Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Handicap Day, June 12, could be on the cards.
Zaaki is already into $2 through Ladbrokes.com.au in The Q22 futures betting.