Multiple Group 1-winner Zaaki is set to etch his name in Queensland racing history in the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes at the Sunshine Coast on Saturday.
The Annabel Neasham-trained Zaaki is shooting to become the first horse to win three Hollindale Stakes before heading to the Group 1 Doomben Cup on May 20.
Three other horses have won the Hollindale Stakes twice but Zaaki will become the first to win it three times and all in successive years, if successful.
Previous dual winners are: Leebaz (2015 and 2016), Shogun Lodge (2000 and 2001) and Rough Habit (1991 and 1992).
A one-time Cox Plate favourite, Zaaki has only raced once this campaign, finishing a brave second to rising star Giga Kick in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes at Randwick on April 15.
Neasham’s Brisbane stable manager Todd Pollard believes Zaaki has returned to Queensland for his third winter trip much brighter than in previous campaigns.
“He came up about 10 days ago and had a good gallop on the course proper at Eagle Farm on Saturday and he worked by himself on the course proper on Tuesday,” Pollard said.
“He seems a lot more enthusiastic and has a bit of a spring in his step this year compared to previous visits.
“His run in the All Aged Stakes over 1400 metres was terrific when he was up against horses who had had a few runs during the autumn carnival.
“There’s plenty of improvement to come from that run and he’ll be hard to beat in the Hollindale.”
Pollard was in charge of the imported stayer last year when the stable was based at the Gold Coast and he can see a major difference in the new-look Zaaki.
“He looks a lot brighter now than when he was stabled at the Gold Coast when he won the Hollindale,” Pollard said.
“When he won this race last year, he came off a tough run in the Queen Elizabeth which was run on very heavy track at Randwick.
“He then won the Hollindale, which was also on a sticky track again, before running third in the Doomben Cup.
“Running on heavy tracks all the time eventually takes its toll.”
Zaaki is the ruling $2 favourite in early TAB markets for the Hollindale Stakes which will be run at the Sunshine Coast this year while track renovations continue at the Gold Coast.
Pollard has named the Chris Waller-trained Atishu as the main danger following her Group 1 Queen Of The Turf victory at Randwick on April 8.
If successful Atishu will become only the sixth mare to win the Hollindale Stakes since it was first run in 1989.
Melora in 1999 was the first mare to win the Hollindale Stakes followed by Shez Sensational (2012), Light Of Heaven (2013), Streama (2014) and Oregon’s Day (2018).
– Racing Queensland