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Zaaki set to confirm Cox Plate favouritism in Q22

By Glenn Davis

Imported stayer Zaaki has stifled betting and is a dominant $1.50 favourite for the Group 2 The Q22 at Eagle Farm on Saturday - but just how good is he?

It’s a question that may not be answered until the spring when trainer Annabel Neasham and Zaaki head to Australia’s weight-for-age championship in the Group 1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in October.

Zaaki has been the star of this year’s Queensland Winter Racing Carnival following his brilliant wins in the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes at the Gold Coast and his Group 1 Doomben Cup demolition last month.

He gets the chance to maintain his unbeaten record in the inaugural $1.2 million The Q22 - a Group 2 feature over 2200 metres.

Zaaki showed he was the rising star of the Australian turf when he bolted in by seven lengths over the Chris Waller-trained Toffee Tongue in the Doomben Cup.

Toffee Tongue is the shortest-priced rival to Zaaki and is the only horse under double figures at $9.

The six-year-old was bred in the northern hemisphere and did his early racing in England, winning twice at Group 3 level before making his Australian debut when sixth in the Group 1 Doncaster Mile at Randwick in April.

He was then runner-up in the Group 3 JRA Plate over 2000 metres before heading to Queensland.

Neasham believes Zaaki has blossomed in the warmer Queensland climate and has mostly taken him to the beach for exercise since his record-breaking Doomben Cup victory.

“To win the Doomben Cup by that margin was unbelievable,” Neasham said.

“He just bowled along at a nice tempo and had the others off the bridle a long way out.

“He had a week at Bill Healey’s property after the Doomben Cup and went to the beach nearly every day.

“He’s a very sound horse and he’s adapted so well here after racing in the northern hemisphere.

“He was no slouch in Europe but he’s improved in the climate here.

“The Cox Plate is his target but he’ll only have three weeks off after this campaign as European horses are not used to long spells.”

Zaaki (GB)