Cox Plate favourite Zaaki to return to Annabel Neasham’s stables Monday

As Annabel Neasham prepares to welcome Cox Plate favourite Zaaki back into her Warwick Farm stable on Monday, she has deliberately avoided stirring up champion jockey James McDonald about his huge spring riding decision.

McDonald is the regular partner of Zaaki, Australian racing’s new freak who blew away his winter opposition which included a seven-length Doomben Cup romp, as well as Chris Waller’s eight-time Group 1-winning superstar Verry Elleegant.

Zaaki and Verry Elleegant are headed for a collision course to the Cox Plate.

McDonald has an allegiance to the Waller stable and has ridden Verry Elleegant in six of her eight Group 1 wins.

But Neasham would love to have J-Mac ride Zaaki through to the Cox Plate in the spring.

However, Neasham insists she isn’t stressing about which way McDonald jumps – and there is a good reason why she hasn’t been on his case about Zaaki.

“To be honest I haven’t been stirring him up or on his case about it, because I know that doesn’t really work with James,” Neasham said.

“James has got very strong alliances with Chris (Waller) but if my horse is flying I will be kicking up strongly for James to stick with him.

James McDonald pilots Zaaki to a dominant win in the Doomben Cup. Picture: Trackside PhotographySource:The Courier-Mail

“I would love and hope that James could ride him the whole way through but to be honest I don’t worry too much about those things.

“Everyone is just assuming both horses are going to be at their absolute best and they might not be, you just don’t know.

“If my horse is going well, there will be plenty of other good jockeys that will be putting their hand up so I don’t think we will be short of talent.”

It seems like just yesterday we saw Zaaki winning the $1.2m Q22 at Eagle Farm (on June 12) but the exciting galloper will return to Neasham’s Warwick Farm stables on Monday after a short break.

Neasham said the English import is not used to having many breaks and quickly stacked on the kilograms since last being seen at the races.

“He has put on a lot of weight in that time off, so I don’t think he wanted any longer,” she said.

“And we went that deep into the winter with him, you can’t do that and then have a long break and then expect to win the Cox Plate.”

McDonald winning the Ranvet Stakes with Verry Elleegant during the autumn. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Neasham has all but set in stone the Group 3 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick on September 4 as Zaaki’s spring kick-off.

She said the Group 1 Winx Stakes a fortnight earlier will come too soon.

The grand final is the Cox Plate – where Zaaki is the $3.50 favourite – but the star galloper’s second and third spring runs remain undecided.

“I think he will probably be fourth-up into the Cox Plate and his two runs between the Tramway and the Cox Plate are up in the air a little bit,” she said.

“If I can’t get down to Melbourne for six to eight weeks leading into the Cox Plate (because of Covid-19 restrictions) it’s not ideal, so maybe then I would campaign him in Sydney until a bit closer to the time.

“But I would love to give him a run down in Melbourne before the Cox Plate.

“I will keep a very open mind as there’s so many ways of getting him to a Cox Plate.”

Originally published asNeasham won’t ‘stir up’ J-Mac for Plate call

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