Zaaki in peak condition ahead of Doomben Cup

Trainer Annabel Neasham is leaving no stone unturned in her bid to have Zaaki in peak condition for his Doomben Cup defence.

Unbeaten in four starts in Queensland, Zaaki was not quite as dominant as many expected in winning the Hollindale Stakes last start, having to dig deep to score by three-quarters of a length over Polly Grey, who is again among his rivals on Saturday.

The odds-on favourite was keen in the run and Neasham said it was a reflection of his current, energetic mood.

While his enthusiasm is a good sign, Neasham is also wary of harnessing it and as such, she has given Zaaki two gallops on the Eagle Farm course proper on Saturday and Tuesday to help temper his energy.

“It’s not something I would usually do but he is just very fresh, and I probably had him a little bit too fresh in the Hollindale,” Neasham told Sky Racing.

“‘JMac’ (jockey James Mcdonald) said he needed a seatbelt, and he just travelled a bit keenly as well. Hopefully that has knocked the edge off him a bit.

“When we were up here last year he was pretty fresh but at the moment, he’s probably the freshest we’ve ever had him.

“He’s an older horse now, he’s a seven-year-old gelding so you want them like that. He is loving life and loving racing and that’s probably what is keeping him going.”

Zaaki is a $1.50 favourite to repeat his winter carnival heroics of 12 months ago by claiming the Hollindale Stakes-Doomben Cup double.

If Neasham has any reservations ahead of Saturday, it is the prospect of another heavy track, which is not the horse’s favoured surface.

However, she is equally adamant Zaaki’s will to win can carry him to another victory.

“A couple of the opposition are supreme wet trackers and it will be a great race,” Neasham said.

“He is a real fighter, a real professional and in my eyes, he is a real champion for us.

“He will try 110 per cent, whatever the track is.”

Zaaki will have nine rivals including New Zealanders The Chosen One and Coventina Bay, while trainers Peter and Paul Snowden saddle up Huetor in their bid for another Group 1 success, a week after capturing the Doomben 10,000 with Mazu.

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