Zaaki lived up to expectations second-up in the Group 1 $1 million Underwood Stakes (1800m) picking up his second elite level win in Australia and firming further in all-in betting for the Cox Plate next month.
The Annabel Neasham-trained seven-year-old kept the wins coming with an all-too-easy victory over gun Kiwi mare Probabeel (2nd) and Feehan Stakes winner Superstorm (3rd) in the Underwood Stakes run this season at Ladbrokes Park Hillside.
It was the first time in a quarter of a century Sandown has hosted a Group 1 race and the small five-starter event did not disappoint, the $1.18 top elect going through the gears late to secure a two-length victory for the punters.
“Outstanding, quite nerve wracking really,” stable rep Todd Pollard told Racing Victoria.
“Once the settle was on and he perked up, it was good to see him out there doing his business.
“It was always going to be a concern with the tactical affair.
“But he’s such a good horse. He just tries every time and he’s a marvel to have in the stable.”
A little excited pre-race, Zaaki looked like he wanted to over-race a little early without any pace on, but jockey Craig Williams worked to keep the horse restrained and travelling on the outside of the surprise front-runner Fifty Stars.
Approaching the turn, Williams moved up and quickly tackled the eventual last placed Fifty Stars to take up the lead and let down all the way to the line in what turned out to be little more than a Group 1 barrier trial.
A seven-length winner of the Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) in Brisbane over the winter, Zaaki is only set to improve over further as he progresses this Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
He is slated for a third-up run on Caulfield Guineas Day, October 9, in the Group 1 Neds Caulfield Stakes (2000m) – run as the Might And Power Stakes this season.
From there he will continue onto Moonee Valley on October 23 for a run in the Australasian weight-for-age championship, the Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m).
“It’s onto the Caulfield Stakes and the Cox Plate, and that’s the grand final,” Pollard said.
“It’s pretty exciting. He’s two-from-two this prep.
“We want to see him keep the ball rolling.”
Ocean Park (2012) was the last horse to complete the Underwood Stakes – Cox Plate double, also winning that year’s Caulfield Stakes.
The all-in Cox Plate betting markets at race sponsor Ladbrokes.com.au have Zaaki at a short $2.