Annabel Neasham’s star galloper Zaaki takes his next step towards the $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate jumping the odds-on favourite second-up in the Group 1 $1 million Underwood Stakes (1800m) at Sandown on Saturday.
Just five horses face off in this weekend’s Underwood Stakes field, Cox Plate favourite Zaaki scaring away the bulk of his potential rivals.
A superstar for the stable in Queensland over the winter, the Leroidesanimaux seven-year-old strung together a host of wins including a seven-length romp home in the Group 1 Doomben Cup and big win in the $1.2 million The Q22.
He was equally as good first-up in Sydney on September 4 dominating the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) ahead of his shot at another Group 1 win heading south for the Underwood.
Zaaki is at $1.28 in the Underwood Stakes markets at Ladbrokes.com.au to beat his four opponents from barrier three with Craig Williams coming aboard.
The other single figurer runner chasing the upset in the Underwood at $5 is Probabeel for gun young Kiwi horseman Jamie Richards.
Jumping from barrier two with Brett Prebble to pilot, the three-time Group 1 winning daughter of Savabeel presents fit and ready to fire third-up.
She won the Group 3 Cockram Stakes fresh with 60kg and lost few admirers when fifth only one length beaten behind Sierra Sue in the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) last weekend.
Probabeel is on the quick back-up rising in distance and has plenty of support in the markets as the most likely to stop Zaaki from extending his winning streak.
While taking on a horse like Zaaki is far from ideal, Richards said that the Underwood became a target after his decision to keep the mare strictly in weight-for-age company for the rest of her campaign.
“She would have had to break a few records to win with the weight she was carrying (57kg in the Sir Rupert) but she wasn’t able to do that,” Richards told Racenet this week.
“That was for a very good reason because the weight records had been standing for a very long time.
“But I was really pleased with the way she went.
“We’re trying to get away from the handicaps now and keep her to weight-for-age racing, which I think she needs.”
Perth expat Superstorm, now with Danny O’Brien, looks potential value after his second-up win in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m) at The Valley and sits just ahead of the second New Zealander in the mix The Chosen One.
The Chosen One ran third in the same lead-up as Superstorm only a half-length off in an eye-catching return from the stayer who will be improving getting out over more distance in the Underwood.
The Tom Dabernig-trained Sea The Stars seven-year-old Fifty Stars rounds out the field and markets, the horse a two-time winner at the Sandown track but disappointing in his recent performances including finishing last (12th) behind Cups’ favourite Incentivise in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m).
The 2021 Underwood Stakes is scheduled to run as Sandown Race 7 at 3:45pm (AEST) on Saturday’s race card.