Zaaki to headline Queensland Winter Racing Carnival


Image: Bruno Cannatelli

The Queensland Winter Racing Carnival is renowned for showcasing emerging talent who lay claim to some of racing’s greatest riches. It happens almost every year and the list is long and incredibly impressive, whether you remember Ethereal (who doubled the Doomben Roses and Queensland Oaks in 2001 before winning the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup)… or the matchless Winx…or Eduardo…or as many racers who have, in their own way, furthered the cause of the value of competition in Queensland at this time.

What also generally happens is that relatively few of those horses that reaffirm their superior qualities in the top Southern States races actually return to the Queensland Carnival…which means Queensland racing fans see them in largely ‘in transit’, so to speak, so when a horse like Zaaki returns for a second bite to the Queensland Carnival action, he automatically becomes a major asset and a source of great expectation and excitement for the Queensland racing aficionado.

Zaaki… what a thrill he was last year in Queensland, picking up a mesmerizing hat-trick.

In a thirty-six day blitz, Zaaki won Group 2 Hollindale over 1800m at the Gold Coast, Group 1 Doomben Cup over 2000m at Doomben and Group 2 Q22 over 2200m at Eagle Farm… but that was racing in the Doomben Cup, a seven-length annihilation of his opposition which made Zaaki one of the most exciting horses to come through the ranks in that era.

After that he extended his winning streak to five in the Group 2 Tramway and Group 1 Underwood exit before Probabeel reversed Underwood’s result with Zaaki in the Caulfield Stakes where Zaaki finished third.

A heartbreaking moment followed when Zaaki, a roaring favorite for the 2021 Cox Plate…some bookmakers had already paid for the race…had to be withdrawn on the morning of race day due to the horse’s high temperature but, after putting Disappointment aside, Zaaki duly picked up where he left off, winning two of his next three starts (in Group 1 McKinnon and the $5 million All Star Mile) to take his earnings beyond the bar of 6 million dollars!

On Zaaki’s last start, when his own efforts were as stunning as many expected, he was beaten to the line in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes in a run that will be remembered for the race of Nash Rawiller long after the name of the winner is forgotten.

Rawiller brought Think It Over to the outside rail on the straight, chasing hard as Zaaki set a formidable target, leading and running strong down the center of the track, with Rawiller eventually bringing Think It Over home a bit more half a length. .

In a way, it was almost as if Rawiller had stolen the Group 1 victory from Zaaki with his audacity, not to mention the sizable difference of the $1.5 million difference between first and second place.

And now Zaaki is returning to Queensland where, like last year, he will launch his campaign in the Gold Coast’s Hollindale on May 7.

It has been an exciting and high performing career since Zaaki arrived in the backyard of coach Annabel Neasham from England.

Twelve starts for seven victories (three Group 1s, three Group 2s and the All Star Mile), two seconds and a third place.

Zaaki’s career has had it all… Group 1 glory, an incredible searing victory, huge disappointment in the late withdrawal of Cox Plate and the narrow defeat of the Queen Elizabeth Stakes… and there was even a disqualification in there (from Group 3 JRA Plate in which Zaaki finished second in the race before heading to Queensland to claim that memorable treble).

It was a round and a half not only for his connections but also for most punters who really enjoyed Zaaki’s show.

And now we have more to come.

It’s unclear whether this morning’s undeniably huge disappointment from Cox Plate impacted Zaaki’s relations decision to draw a line through the Royal Ascot option for Zaaki this year, putting the addendum instead. ‘maybe next year’ behind Zaaki’s name unclear… but the decision to come to Queensland instead will give Zaaki plenty of time to line up for another tilt at the Cox Plate this year .

Either way, it’s Queensland’s win with Zaaki who is likely to be a standout attraction when he attempts to blitz his rivals again in a short two-week period on May 7 (in Hollindale) and the May 21 (in the Doomben Cup) with the defending champion being deservedly highly rated in both races to keep his perfect Queensland record intact.

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