Last year’s Cox Plate hard-luck story, Zaaki, gets his chance to atone and keep the spring wins going in the Group 1 $1 million George Main Stakes (1600m) in Sydney on Saturday.
Annabel Neasham’s star import was scratched from the Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) last spring on race morning as the pre-race favourite.
It was a definite blow for connections of the British-bred gelding, but Zaaki collected a consolation prize with his Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) victory during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Winner of the autumn’s $5 million The All-Star Mile (1600m), the evergreen veteran has been competitive in plenty since.
He returned to winning form fresh a fortnight back at Randwick on a Heavy (10) posting an impressive Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) success by nearly two lengths.
On Saturday the eight-year-old is now out to complete the Tramway Stakes – George Main Stakes double for the first time since Sincero (2011).
Zaaki jumps from barrier seven with Tommy Berry aboard, and he currently pays $3.20 in the latest George Main Stakes odds online at Ladbrokes.com.au.
The danger sitting top of the George Main Stakes betting markets at $2.05 and firming is the James Cummings-trained Anamoe.
The young star was narrowly denied the Cox Plate in 2021 when second in a photo finish to Irish galloper State Of Rest.
He is among the favourites heading into the Australasian weight-for-age championship again this October, and Anamoe also comes off a first-up victory ahead of the George Main.
The now four-year-old Street Boss empire was good at Randwick on August 20 in the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m), and he has been kept fit with a subsequent trial at Warwick Farm this month.
He was outstanding fresh, is expected to improve second-up and previously won second-up as the favourite in February’s Group 2 Hobartville Stakes.
“He’s coming along beautifully. His first-up run has set him up perfectly for this preparation,” trainer Cummings told Punters.com.au this week.
“I’ve taken my time with him, he hasn’t run for a month, but he’s a wonderful, natural athlete who’ll appreciate the gap between first and second-up runs.
“He enjoyed the seven (furlongs) first-up, so stepping to a mile is ideal.
“James (McDonald) understands the horse very well and has the superior jockey ratings at the moment.
“It’s only fitting he’s on Anamoe – he’s won three G1s on the horse, so let’s hope he can continue.
“Everything this preparation has gone beautifully, so this will be very instructive this weekend.”
No George Main Stakes winner jumped at double-figure odds since the shock win by Road To Rock at 40/1 back in 2009.
This year the only other single-figure fancy at $9.50 is the Chris Waller-trained Vinery Stud Stakes winning mare Fangirl.
Waller collected his incredible eighth George Main Stakes trophy in 10 years last spring with his subsequent Melbourne Cup champion Verry Elleegant who saluted for the punters.
The country’s leading trainer is looking to add to his silverware on Saturday saddling up both Fangirl and his Surround Stakes winner Hinged ($17) from barriers three and one respectively.
Both mares are also second-up off a Winx Stakes performance with Fangirl runner-up to Anamoe in the key lead-up, while Hinged ran a credible fifth in her campaign kick-off.
The George Main Stakes 2022 is scheduled as Randwick Race 7 and is due to jump at 3:15pm (AEST) on the bumper 10-race card.