Trainer Annabel Neasham has been left gutted by the sensational race morning scratching of favourite Zaaki from the Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) field at Moonee Valley.

Zaaki (Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos) | HorseRacing.com.au

Sensational Cox Plate scratching Zaaki will instead target Flemington’s Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes on November 6. Photo: Ultimate Racing Photos.

The gun import was found to have an elevated temperature just hours ahead of the iconic weight-for-age showdown for which he was at around $3 in markets at Ladbrokes.com.au to win.

“Absolutely devastated to report that Zaaki had been scratched from the Cox Plate due to an elevated temperature,” Neasham posted, the trainer first noticing the issue with Zaaki around 5am (AEDT) before the official scratching.

“Gutted for connections and James McDonald.”

Sydney hoop McDonald, who arrived in Melbourne a week ago to isolate, has been left without a ride in this year’s Cox Plate field, but Neasham still has one runner in the mix with her dual Group 1 winning four-year-old Mo’unga.

On Friday Gold Trip for the Maher/Eustace stable was also withdrawn on vet’s advice and there are now just eight Cox Plate hopefuls remaining.

Mo’unga has firmed notably in from $16 to $6 in Cox Plate betting at Ladbrokes.com.au and will jump from barrier three with Hugh Bowman aboard.

Updated markets have the Godolphin-raced Street Boss colt Anamoe as favourite, the last start Caulfield Guineas winner at $3.20 to become the first three-year-old Cox Plate winner since Shamus Award (2013).

Verry Elleegant for Chris Waller is the other notable Cox Plate market mover, the nine-time Group 1 winning daughter of Zed into $3.70 to bounce back off her lead-up fourth behind subsequent Caulfield Cup champion Incentivise in Flemington’s Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m).

The stable has said that all going well Zaaki will get a chance at a consolation prize now targeting the Group 1 $2 million Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival, November 6.

“He seemed spot on going into it. We were happy with him when we left the stable yesterday afternoon,” Neasham’s assistant trainer Todd Pollard said on Saturday.

“We turned up (this morning), his temperature was just a little bit above normal and as it transpired throughout the morning it climbed a few more points.

“We had to do the right thing by the horse and scratch him and wait for another day.

“If you didn’t take his temperature, he seemed bright and well.

“He had his head in the feed bin this morning, went out for a little trot and was as enthusiastic as ever, so just as well we did take the temperature and save a bit disappointment later.

“The horse will be fine, he’ll come through it, we’ll just have to see how it is and get him right in the next few days.

“We’ve taken a blood test to see exactly what sort of infection it is, we’ll treat him with the right medication and hopefully he’ll be right in a day or two.

“There would be a good chance we go to the Mackinnon on the last day, that’s two weeks from now.”

The 2021 Ladbrokes Cox Plate is scheduled to run as Moonee Valley Race 9 at 5:10pm (AEDT).

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Lucy Henderson

Lucy is an experienced horse racing journalist that has been a crucial member of the horseracing.com.au team for the better part of a decade. She has taken great delight in covering champion mares Black Caviar and Winx throughout their careers and always has a soft spot for a winning filly.