Well known Queensland media man Nathan Exelby is a constant at the track and has all the inside information as we head into another big weekend of racing in the Sunshine State.
DON’T LET THE ZAAKI RUN FOOL YOU
THERE are a stack of precedents over a good many years for ZAAKI to bounce back in Saturday’s Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
Queenslanders claimed Zaaki as one of our own after he cut a swathe through the carnival, winning three-straight, highlighted by a monster Doomben Cup win. And he hadn’t disappointed since resuming, winning the Tramway and Underwood in good style to frank his status as the one to beat in the Cox Plate.
The gloss came off the Annabel Neasham-trained import a shade when he was rolled by PROBABEEL and NONCONFORMIST in the Might And Power (Caulfield) Stakes last time out.
He subsequently eased in betting with TAB for the big one this weekend. The $2.80 final field price is significantly better than what some were willing to take ‘all-in’ a week or two back.
Interestingly, 16 of the past 30 Cox Plate winners were beaten in their final lead-up run to the race.
Now, a few of those were coming off runs where they actually did run to expectations – horses like SO YOU THINK (first time around) and OCTAGONAL turned in eye-catching trials from the point of view of going from 1600m to 2040m.
But there’s many others who were sunk as favourite or near favourite in that final lead-up.
SUNLINE, for instance, was beaten in the lead-up to both of her Cox Plate wins.
In 1999 she had a big weight in the Epsom, so could be forgiven, but a year later, FAIRWAY rolled her in the Turnbull before she turned that around and gave her rivals a caning at The Valley.
The great SAINTLY was beaten not once, but twice as a hotpot in Sydney before returning to Melbourne and completing the Plate-Cup double.
EL SEGUNDO (Turnbull), MALDIVIAN (Caulfield Cup), DANE RIPPER (Epsom) and FIELDS OF OMAGH (Caulfield Stakes before his second win) were all unplaced leading in to the Cox Plate.
So, there are many precedents for Zaaki to turn it around this weekend.
This preparation, he’s yet to rate to the level we saw when he won the Doomben Cup in May, so maybe now he gets to the Grand Final we might just see that unfold.
In terms of history, it would seem Zaaki has a whole lot less confronting him than ANAMOE, who is trying to be the first Caulfield Guineas winner in 37 years (Red Anchor was the last) to win the Cox Plate after winning the three-year-old 1600m feature.
Check out the latest TAB markets here.
BRISBANE FORM KEEPS SPRINGING UP
FROM a Brisbane carnival point of view, we would love to see Zaaki claim this race and build further on the incredible record this spring of horses that competed during Stradbroke season.
INCENTIVISE continues to be the flagbearer and is now hotly fancied to join VOW AND DECLARE as a Tatt’s Cup winner to claim the Melbourne Cup in the same year. Of course, he’s added a few other features along the way.
The stakes race wins for horses that competed in Queensland this year kept mounting in the last week. In addition to Incentivise’s Caulfield Cup, we saw WARNING win the St Leger in Sydney and TUTUKAKA claimed the Geelong Classic on Wednesday.
Both were stakes winners in Brisbane mid-year.
That followed SAVATOXL, DELPHI and DUAIS the previous week.
The G1 tally to this point comprises Incentivise, Zaaki, SIERRA SUE, WILD RULER and PRIVATE EYE.
BIG SACRIFICE IN CHASE FOR THE EAGLE
JIM Byrne had a back-and-forth week in terms of whether he would commit to the APACHE CHASE Golden Eagle ride, but in the end, it was a cup of coffee on Sunday morning with trainer Desleigh Forster that sealed the deal.
It’s no small task he’s undertaking.
He has to spend a week in isolation from Sunday at home in Queensland and then a fortnight in hotel quarantine when he chooses to make the return trip from Sydney.
He also has to make the 10-plus hour drive to Sydney by car (solo), with air travel not permitted under the tight security protocols in place under the Racing NSW guidelines.
Byrne feels very strongly that the formlines around Apache Chase make him a genuine hope in the $7.5M race next week.
Sydneysiders can catch a glimpse of that formline when EMERALD KINGDOM takes on the Filante Handicap (1400m) at Randwick on Saturday.
STILL A MAIDEN, BUT NOT FOR LONG
Doomben plays host to a 10-event card on Saturday, where the two three-year-old races are among the highlights.
TIGER HEART, who was regarded highly enough by Tony Gollan last season to test him in the G2 Sires, takes on BIRRIECART, the unbeaten son of Husson from the Steve O’Dea and Matt Hoysted stable in the boys’ division.
Tiger Heart found 1000m a touch slippery first up, but now gets to 1200m, a trip he won most impressively at when second-up in his debut campaign.
Birriecart has taken care of SHAJAEA in both of his starts to date and that pair dominate the market.
The fillies’ division looks to be a deeper betting affair, with a few last start winners tackling some classy types who are resuming.
Headline act among those is INVINSIBLE TEARS, a Gillian Heinrich-trained filly who is still a maiden after six starts, but undoubtedly among Queensland’s best performed two-year-olds last season.
She charged home to finish second to PRINCE OF BOOM in the G2 Spirit Of Boom Classic, before running on strongly behind CONVERGE, GIANNIS and TIGER OF MALAY to finish fourth in the G1 J.J. Atkins. She looked good attacking the line in a recent Gold Coast trial and should make her presence felt, even with 59kg here.
RAYJEN doesn’t have the Group form that Invinsible Tears does, but she now has a pretty powerful formline, having finished second to subsequent Flight Stakes runner-up HINGED at her second outing back in July. She too has trialled well.
Add in stakes placed BERDINI’S GIRL and unlucky last start runner FETCH and you have a ripping good little off-season event here.
Check out the latest TAB Futures markets here.
JAKE BREAKING IN TO SATURDAY RANKS
SIR WARWICK was a dual acceptor for Doomben, but trainer Jake Capewell has opted to stretch him to 1350m this weekend, where he takes on impressive last start winners BIG BAD BRUCE and NEUTRON.
Sir Warwick, formerly trained in Victoria, is 3/3 since joining Capewell’s stable and really made punters stand up and take notice when he put nearly six lengths on THE BIG GOODBYE to post very slick time over 1200m last start.
The Big Goodbye just missed in Saturday grade last week, so the form jumps off the page and Capewell will be seeking his first Saturday metropolitan winner.
He has only been training since 2017 and has a small team, but his main business is the Jake Capewell Breaking and Pre-training operation at Westbrook on the Darling Downs.
Set up in 2015, Capewell has quickly become known as one of the state’s best breakers, having built up capacity from just 12 to more than 50 in a few short years.
The way he has Sir Warwick going, it wouldn’t surprise to see the number of horses he sends to the races in his own name increase over time too.
BEST BETS AT DOOMBEN
Danezel, R8 - $5
Sir Warwick, R9 - $2.80
Gogol, R10 - $6.50