G1 Cox Plate at the mercy of Zaaki

Zaaki has confirmed his position at the head of Cox Plate betting with a comfortable win in his Melbourne debut at Sandown.

The European import extended his winning sequence to five with victory in Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) on Saturday.

Sent out the $1.18 favourite under Craig Williams, Zaaki had the race under his control turning for home before defeating Probabeel ($7.50) by two lengths with Superstorm ($21) 1-¾ lengths away third.

The TAB on Friday announced it had paid out all pre-nomination and those taken in multi-bets on Zaaki in the Cox Plate and after Saturday’s victory he is now a $2 Cox Plate favourite.

Annabel Neasham stable representative Todd Pollard, who came out of two weeks hotel quarantine on Friday, said Zaaki would head to the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes (2000m) on October 9 ahead of his grand final, the Cox Plate (2040m) at The Valley on October 23.

“It’s pretty exciting, he’s two-from-two this prep,” Pollard said.

“You talk about the Cox Plate being the grand final, but when he’s winning first-up over 1400 (metres) and doing it again second-up, we just want to see him keep the ball rolling.

“It was quite nerve racking going into this. You wait two weeks and then it ends up being a five-horse field, he’s an odds-on favourite and the pressure was on.

“Once the saddle is on and he perks up a bit. It’s just good to see him out there and doing his business.”

Williams headed out to Sandown on Tuesday to partner Zaaki in a track gallop and could feel the difference when the gelding was produced on race day.

And Williams said Zaaki knows he’s a good horse, although the jockey maybe just warming the seat for James McDonald should he be granted an exemption to travel to Melbourne for the Cox Plate ride.

“The thing, for me, that makes him feel so good is that I think that he reads his form, and he knows he good,” Williams said.

“He pumps his chest up and the jockey gets on when it comes to raceday and he’s a real racehorse.

“In the morning, on his own, he just floats around. He covers the ground that well, he’s that athletic, that you don’t actually realise what he’s doing to his opposition

“Probabeel, the four that lined up today, they’re all Group 1 winners. “He’s really exciting and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”

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