Twelve months after his maiden win in Australia, Zaaki will return to the Gold Coast, Queensland on Saturday to defend his title in the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m), with 15 horses standing in his way.
The Annabel Neasham-trained seven-year-old has opened a dominant favourite with online bookmakers, firming from $2 into as short as $1.65 shortly after markets opened on Monday afternoon.
The son of Leroidesanimaux heads into the $500,000 event in a rich vein of form, having won the $5 million All Star Mile at Flemington, Victoria, Australia in March, before going down narrowly to Think It Over in the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick.
Also headed into the Hollindale is boom four-year-old, Ayrton.
The Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr-trained galloper returned from a seven-month spell at Caulfield on April 16, winning the Group 3 Victoria Handicap (1400m) by 1.25 lengths.
The gelded son of Iffraaj is the second favourite ($4) behind Zaaki, in his quest to win a second race in Queensland.
After heading to Brisbane in 2021 as the early Stradbroke Handicap favourite, the six-times winner failed to make the final field for the famous handicap, instead bolting in to win the Group 3 Gunsynd Classic (1600m) on Stradbroke Day at Eagle Farm, defeating Ellsberg by 2.75 lengths.
Having suffered his first defeat on Australian soil first-up, Huetor ($11) is the third favourite for Saturday’s event, while New Zealand mare Coventina Bay ($15) returns to Queensland after winning two Group 1s earlier in the year across the Tasman.
Chris Waller has nominated a sextet of horses for the Group 2 event, with Hungry Heart ($15), Polly Grey ($15), Kukeracha ($26), Kolding ($26), Yonkers ($26) and Great House ($51) all double figure hopes.
Some betting sites have also opened markets for the Group 3 Gold Coast Guineas (1200m), with Prince Of Boom ($3.50) opening as the all-in favourite.
The three-year-old feature sprint has attracted 27 nominations, 12 of which are interstate visitors, while both Sword Of State ($11) and Meritable ($21) will represent New Zealand.
Battleton sits on the second line of betting at $8 in what will be his first start since finishing fifth in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) in October, while Ingratiating ($9) is the only other runner in single figures as he looks to return to form after disappointing as favourite in the Listed Mick Dittman Plate (1110m) at Doomben on April 23.
Other big names include Four Moves Ahead ($11), Me Me Lagarde ($11) and Alpine Edge ($21).
Final fields and barrier draws for both races – along with the remainder of the program – will be released on Wednesday morning.