By Jon Lees
Australia: Annabel Neasham’s impressive first season as a trainer hit a new pinnacle on Saturday when Zaaki trounced a quality field to secure her second G1 victory in the Doomben Cup – and the Cox Plate is now the target.
The ex-Sir Michael Stoute-trained Zaaki announced himself as a major new star on the scene by putting seven lengths between himself and the next finisher Toffee Tongue in the 1m2f showpiece.
Big names rivals like Melody Belle, Humidor, Sir Dragonet and Mugatoo finished well adrift after James McDonald took Zaaki to the lead with 400m to go and pulled further and further clear.
“James was very confident,” said Neasham, speaking to Sky Racing. “He said just leave it up to me, I’ll get him in the right spot. He’s run the 2,000 pretty easily and I can’t wait for the Cox Plate.”
The six-year-old Zaaki won two G3 races in Britain before changing hands for 150,000gns at the Tattersalls Autumn Horses-in-Training Sale to join British expat Neasham in Warwick Farm in Sydney.
He finished sixth in the G1 Doncaster on his debut and after an impressive win in a G2 race two weeks ago, took the step back into top company in impressive fashion.
McDonald said: “It couldn’t have worked out any better. I got across under my own steam. I ended up getting cover for a good four or five furlongs, right to the 600 where I’ve done no work and I pushed the button and he exploded.
“It was a devastating performance. I know we saw a great performance on the Gold Coast, but he felt terrific today and he relaxed a lot better. Going forward he is definitely on the rise and I hope he’s got the race in three weeks (Aus$1.2 million Q22 at Eagle Farm) at his mercy.”
Neasham, 30, from Croughton in Northamptonshire, spent four years with Ciaron Maher and David Eustace and latterly ran the Sydney arm of their training operation until branching out on her own. She has trained 24 winners, two at G1 level.
“I have to give a big shout out to Stuart Boman who found this horse at the Tattersalls Horses In Training Sale,” she said. “We didn’t pay a whole lot for him. He was a little bit older. We took a chance. We had to fit the budget. He looks a proper G1 horse.”