The nature bar turned in a trademark performance at Monday’s Warwick Farm trials, but there was no shortage of happy connections from what they saw behind the world champion sprinter.
Annabel Neesham was particularly excited after watching Zaki Cruz finish fourth in the star-studded 824-metre trial on good ground.
The four-time Group 1 winner was ridden by Brett Preble on the way back from Hong Kong with regular riders James McDonald and Jamie Kah and Nesham said reports from the top jockeys were encouraging.
“Zaki tested pretty quick,” she told RSN927. “Obviously it was a star-studded trial and there was a mix of sprinters, middle-distance[horses]and stayers, but I thought their action was really good.
“He always tests well, but Brett hasn’t sat on it before and he said he felt great, so I’m looking forward to this preparation with him.”
Zaki traveled midfield in a trial led by Nature Stripe and worked the line under light riding to finish two lengths clear of the multiple Horse of the Year winner Chris Waller.
Zaki’s performance has given Neesham heart that he is on track to be a force to be reckoned with in the $600,000 Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 4, before the $5 million All-Star Mile (1600m) be second-up on Tilt, a race he won the previous year.
“We still haven’t fully decided what the drive might be, but he’ll have one more test, then he’ll be ready to go,” Neesham said.
“At this stage, we are probably looking to kick Zaki off in the Canterbury Stakes, which was the plan last year before it was too wet and we diverted to the Blamey Stakes.
“He freshens up very well and the Canterbury Stakes is a Group 1 so we were keen to try him fresh on that kind of trip and then he’ll be a couple of weeks away in the All-Star Mile.”
Zaki was not the only member of the beaten brigade from Monday’s trial, who would have received a big tick from Connection by 1-1/4 lengths to Nature Strip, to finish runner-up with the normally sluggish trialer Fireburn Steaming Home.
Riodini finished third, with the Group 1 winner September Run just behind Jaki. Everest runner-up Private Eye (sixth), Caulfield Cup winner Durston (seventh) and the Glamor Godolphin filly In Secret (eighth) all settled further back and tested cool.
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