Coach Annabel Neasham leaves no stone unturned in her bid to have Zaaki in prime condition for his Doomben Cup defense.
Undefeated in four starts in Queensland, Zaaki wasn’t as dominant as many had hoped as he won the Hollindale Stakes in the final start, having to dig deep to score from three-quarter lengths over Polly Gray, who is again among his rivals on Saturday.
The heavy favorite was passionate about racing and Neasham said it reflected his current energetic mood.
While her enthusiasm is a good sign, Neasham is also wary of exploiting her and as such she gave Zaaki two canters on the Eagle Farm course proper on Saturday and Tuesday to help temper her energy.
“It’s not something I would usually do, but it’s just very chilled, and I probably had it a little too chilled in the Hollindale,” Neasham told Sky Racing.
“’JMac’ (jockey James Mcdonald) said he needed a seatbelt, and he just traveled a bit briskly too. Hopefully that threw him off a bit.
“When we were here last year it was pretty cool, but right now it’s probably the coolest we’ve ever had.
“He’s an older horse now, he’s a seven-year-old gelding, so you want them like that. He loves life and loves racing and that’s probably what keeps him going.
Zaaki is a $1.50 favorite to repeat his Winter Carnival exploits from 12 months ago by claiming the Hollindale Stakes-Lined Doomben cut.
If Neasham has any reservations ahead of Saturday, it’s the prospect of another heavy track, which is not the horse’s preferred surface.
However, she is equally adamant that Zaaki’s will to win can lead him to another victory.
“A few of the opponents are supreme wet trackers and it’s going to be a great race,” Neasham said.
“He’s a real fighter, a real professional and in my eyes he’s a real champion for us.
“He will try 110% whatever the track.”
Zaaki will have nine rivals including New Zealanders The Chosen One and Coventina Bay, while coaches Peter and Paul Snowden saddle Huetor in their bid for another Group 1 success, a week after winning the Doomben 10,000 with Mazu.