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HomeHorse Racing2022 Underwood Stakes Field & Odds Update: Zaaki Favourite

2022 Underwood Stakes Field & Odds Update: Zaaki Favourite

The punters are tipping the decision by Annabel Neasham to save her weight-for-age star Zaaki a week to defend his title in the Underwood Stakes to pay off with the reigning champ favourite for Sunday’s $1 million showdown.

Zaaki (Photo: Steve Hart) | HorseRacing.com.au

Zaaki is favourite to win the 2022 Underwood Stakes in Melbourne this Sunday. Photo: Steve Hart.

Neasham withdrew Zaaki from Sydney’s Group 1 George Main Stakes last weekend in favour of a run this weekend in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes (1800m) over further at Sandown.

The star import won the event last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival and is now out to become the first back-to-back winner on consecutive years since Northerly (2001 – 2002).

Zaaki was excellent first-up winning the Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) in the mud at Randwick.

The evergreen eight-year-old was good second-up in the autumn winning the $5 million The All-Star Mile (1600m) at Flemington, but he goes straight from 1400m to 1800m this prep.

In The All-Star Mile he defeated I’m Thunderstruck who is again the main danger in the Underwood Stakes field.

Shocking five-year-old I’m Thunderstruck represents Mick Price & Michael Kent Junior and is fit third-up off two excellent Melbourne runs already this prep.

He was narrowly denied success first-up when second to The Everest-bound Snapdancer in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) before his Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) success when running down Alligator Blood on September 10.

There is money coming for the New Zealand-bred I’m Thunderstruck to post another Group 1 victory on his way to the $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate next month.

“I think he’s a better horse now than he was last prep,” co-trainer Mick Price told Just Horse Racing this week.

“He was a little bit fatter last prep, for whatever reason and we didn’t catch him right, but he still ran well in The All-Star Mile, and he was fantastic in the Doncaster.

“This time in, he’s right in the zone. He’s not feeling hard runs which is good horses’ stuff.

“It’s a small field. There’ll be one out in front, Alligator Blood, the rest will be in a bunch.

“It’s not like a frenetic 1800 metres. At weight-for-age, they roll around and then they sprint.

“He’s a weight-for-age horse so I don’t think the tempo will be against him and I think the 1800 metres will be fine.

“You would be rubbing your hands together if you are the MRC.

“Apart from Anamoe and maybe one or two others, these are the Cox Plate horses.”

Current Underwood Stakes betting at Ladbrokes.com.au has Zaaki on top at $2.45 while I’m Thunderstruck is the early market mover backed in from $3.30 to $2.90.

Neasham meanwhile also saddles-up her dual Group 1 winning son of Savabeel, Mo’unga, who is at $19 to return to his better form.

The now five-year-old hasn’t won a race since the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) over 12 months ago, but he has been competitive in plenty since including his last start third in the Makybe Diva Stakes.

There may only be six runners in this year’s Underwood, but it remains a strong field with a further two chances under $10 to win.

The Ben & JD Hayes-trained Doncaster Mile champion Mr Brightside is next best at Underwood Stakes odds of $4.40 to post his fourth win on the trot.

The consistent son of Bullbars, who ran fourth to Zaak in the autumn’s All-Star Mile before his Doncaster Mile triumph over I’m Thunderstruck, is two-from-two this prep.

He was good in the Group 2 P.B. Lawrence Stakes (1400m) fresh winning narrowly and showed terrific improvement when easily accounting for Inspirational Girl in his 4.5 length Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m) win at The Valley on September 3.

Mr Brightside jumps from barrier four with last year’s winning hoop Craig Williams in the saddle.

The other key player is the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott-trained Makybe Diva Stakes third place-getter Alligator Blood whose last turf triumph ($8) was the Stradbroke Handicap over the winter in Brisbane.

The rails-drawn Nonconformist for Grahame Begg is then the $71 roughie of the lot with last year’s Caulfield Cup runner-up sure to be better over further looking ahead.

The 2022 Underwood Stakes is scheduled as Race 7 at 4:25pm (AEST) on Sunday’s nine-race Sandown card.



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