Zaaki primed for his return in Tramway Stakes

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Zaaki wins AD Hollindale Stakes

Annabel Neasham's racing manager had to pause for a moment when asked what makes Zaaki the great gelding that he is.

“Oh God, how do you summarise it? He's just very genuine and very tough,” he said ahead of Saturday's $250,000 Tramway Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.

And at seven, he has also not shown any signs of slowing down.

“He's given us no indication. He bounces around in the mornings like he's a three-year-old,” Archibald said.

“He certainly hasn't shown us there's any wear or tear there, or shown his age at all.”

Archibald said Zaaki has brought that high-energy back to his stable after enjoying a well-earned spell which lasted three months.

“He looks fantastic. He's had a faultless preparation,” he said ahead of Saturday's first-up start.

“Really pleased with him heading into (Saturday). Obviously, he'll take a bit of improvement from the race.

“He's gleaming and he's really healthy. I couldn't be happier with the way he's come back.”

After a sensational last preparation where he saluted in the  and , Zaaki fought hard to hang on to third in his last start.

That was the  on May 28 when he led until inside the final 200m, before Huetor prevailed in the 2100m feature.

It was the worst result of his five-race campaign, where Zaaki also picked up a pair of runner-up finishes in both the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Blamey Stakes.

“I think he probably just came to the end of his preparation,” Archibald said when asked if fatigue caught up with the champion stayer in his last start.

“He'd been down to Melbourne and he had a little bit of travel.

“His race at the (Hollindale Stakes) was a fairly testing race in tough conditions.

“But he's a pretty genuine horse and I think he was probably just a little bit tired.

“It was a relatively long preparation and he'd just come to the end of it.

“He still ran well and he always does. He's so tough and genuine that I think it was just one race too many.

“I don't think it was much more than that.”

Zaaki will go into the Tramway Stakes as the $1.80 raging-hot favourite with Ladbrokes.

But Archibald said the Neasham camp would be far from on race day.

“I have to respect and Converge. I thought Profondo ran really well last start (third in the on August 20),” he said.

“He's going to be a big danger. Converge – on his day he's up there with the best of any of them.

“So they're the two main dangers.

“But any race at that level you have to respect the opposition. They're all quality horses and it's a quality field.

“So we've just got to concentrate on Zaaki, and try to get him there in the best way we can.

“And hopefully at his best he's good enough.”

Archibald said Saturday's feature was the first step of the Neasham stable's plan to have Zaaki primed for the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on October 22.

“At this stage it's just race by race. They're obviously trying to get him to the Cox Plate in the smoothest way possible,” he said.

“But all options are open at this stage, whether it's Melbourne or Sydney.

“He shown he's pretty adept at both. If Annabel wants to give him a run before the Cox Plate, that'll be up to her.

“She'll decide that. I think at this stage it's just about taking it a race at a time.

“Everything's on the table at this stage.”

It still stings when last year's Cox Plate is mentioned to anyone involved with the Neasham stable.

That was when $2.80 favourite Zaaki was scratched on race-day morning due to an elevated temperature.

“He had a temperature on the day of the race, which was fairly unfortunate,” Archibald said.

“He'd been spot-on the whole way through the preparation.

“Leading in he was in good order. It was disappointing for the connections and obviously Annabel was devastated.

“So hopefully he gets there in 100 per cent tip-top shape.”

There have been no indications of bad health heading into race seven at Randwick on Saturday afternoon.

“Annabel's really pleased with him. We couldn't be happier with him, and we just hope he can run well,” Archibald said.

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