Q22: Winter carnival sensation Zaaki heads for a spell with Cox Plate on the agenda in the spring

Annabel Neasham was left wishing the Cox Plate was just a fortnight away but Zaaki’s win in the rich Q22 didn’t come without some last-minute drama.

Zaaki reinforced his reputation as the star of the Queensland winter carnival and an upcoming spring carnival drawcard when winning the Q22 but Neasham was a bundle of nerves in the hours leading up to unleashing her $1.26 favourite at Eagle Farm.

And matters weren’t helped with a pre-race incident in the tie-up stalls before the $1.2m contest over 2200m.

“It’s my first season of training so it’s quite a lot of pressure for me, I didn’t really feel it until about two hours before the race,” Neasham said.

“But then Zaaki stood on a (racing) plate in the tie-up stalls and had to be replated and then my nerves really starting kicking in then.

“But then as soon as I saw him parade, I started to relax a bit as he looked a million dollars.

“He is just very special.

“I just wish the Cox Plate was in two weeks.”

ZAAKI TOO GOOD! 💙

He takes out the G2 Sky Racing Q22 for @ANeashamRacing & @mcacajamez 👌 pic.twitter.com/MU44tD7ZpK

Zaaki’s 1½-length win in the Q22 may not have been nearly as arrogant as his seven-length Group 1 Doomben Cup romp but he was stepping up to 2200m and racing at Eagle Farm for the first time.

Bookies were prepared to offer $1.50 during the week but that price was slashed on raceday.

James McDonald thought the race was in his keeping the last 1000m of the Q22 and felt Hugh Bowman’s mid-race move to whip around the field and take Reloaded to the lead played into his hands.

McDonald feels 2000m will be more in Zaaki’s sweet spot as the former import targets some rich spring goals, remaining the $3.50 favourite for the Cox Plate.

“If the mid-race move from Hughie didn’t happen, I was actually going to do it myself,” McDonald revealed.

Trainer Annabel Neasham gives James McDonald a hug after Zaaki’s win in the Q22. Picture: Trackside PhotographySource:Supplied

“Zaaki is such an enthusiastic and competitive horse, he was tugging a little bit so I would have been happy to take it up and bowl along.

“They weren’t up to his league those sort of horses but they gave him a good race and he knew he was here for a race today.

“He is so fast, that’s the reason why 2000m is probably his sweet spot.

“When a horse can win by seven lengths they don’t need competition, they just want to better themselves.

“It wasn’t smooth sailing by all means today, but I was happy from about the 1000(m) onwards.”

After winning three Queensland races on the bounce, Zaaki will now be sent for a spell with Neasham content she has a very special galloper early on in her training career.

Her first emotion as Zaaki crossed the line at Eagle Farm was pure relief.

“I think I prefer him at 2000(m), as it’s not as long to watch,” Neasham quipped.

“To be honest I just can’t believe I have got a horse like this so early on in my training career.

“From day one he has looked like he is going to be a star, you don’t run them in a Doncaster first-up unless you have a big opinion of them.”

Originally published asWinter wonder Zaaki shrugs off scare to win Q22

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