The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
Annabel Neasham’s reigning champion Zaaki is narrow favourite to go back-to-back in the Group 1 $1 million Underwood Stakes (1800m) against a small field this Sunday at Ladbrokes Park.
The Sandown weight-for-age feature attracted a diminutive but class line-up of six runners with last year’s winner Zaaki sitting top of the latest 2022 Underwood Stakes odds at Ladbrokes.com.au.
Neasham scratched her All-Star Mile champ from last weekend’s George Main Stakes in Sydney in favour of this, and the Cox Plate-bound eight-year-old looks primed to win.
He was good fresh saluting in Randwick’s Group 2 Tramway Stakes (1400m) on a Heavy (10), and is now out to frank that form heading south of the border this weekend.
Zaaki is at a current price of $2.45 in Underwood Stakes betting looking to become the first dual winner since Black Heart Bart (2016, 2019).
The last two-time Underwood champ to salute on consecutive years meanwhile was the great Northerly back in 2001-02.
Second-up last prep Zaaki defeated I’m Thunderstruck by 1.5 lengths in the $5 million The All-Star Mile at Flemington, and he will have to beat the same horse again to keep his good second-up record going on Sunday.
The Mick Price & Michael Kent Jnr-trained I’m Thunderstruck is the big danger on the weekend into $2.90 second favouritism as the early Underwood Stakes market mover.
Drawn one on Zaaki’s outside in barrier six, the in-form Shocking five-year-old is third-up and fit getting up over further than a mile for the first time since April’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
Fresh he was a half-length second to Snapdancer in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) before a narrow victory over Alligator Blood in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) on September 10.
In an open market a further two runners are under double-figures for the Underwood win with the airborne Mr Brightside ($4.40) for Ben & JD Hayes and the Makybe Diva Stakes runner-up Alligator Blood ($7.50) representing Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott.
Craig Williams rode Zaaki to victory in the Underwood last year and returns on Sunday this time aboard Bullbars five-year-old Mr Brightside.
The gun gelding sits just shy of $3 million in prize money and has won his latest three assignments with Williams in the saddle.
Back in April he relished a wet track to beat home I’m Thunderstruck in Sydney’s Group 1 Doncaster Mile (1600m), and he picked up where he left off winning his first two starts this prep.
Fresh he won the Group 2 PB Larence Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield over I Am Superman before a barnstorming 4.5 length romp home in the Group 2 Feehan Stakes (1600m) at The Valley last time out.
Mr Brightside was so dominant over Inspirational Girl and Spanish Mission in the Feehan, which is looking a strong form race, and he should have no problems up to 1800m third-up here.
Alligator Blood meanwhile is looking to turn the tables on I’m Thunderstruck on the back of that close Makybe Diva performance.
The All Too Hard six-year-old is after his first win since the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) in Brisbane back in June and is drawn well in barrier two for the Underwood.
The field is rounded out by Zaaki’s dual Group 1 winning stablemate Mo’unga ($26) coming off a third in the Makybe Diva and the Grahame Begg-trained outside Nonconformist ($71) drawn the rails.
The 2022 Underwood Stakes is set to run as Sandown Race 7 at 4:25pm (AEST) on Sunday’s nine-race card.
2022 Underwood Stakes Final Field & Barrier Draw
|No||Last 10||Horse||Trainer||Jockey||Barrier||Weight||Penalty||Hcp Rating|
|1||31x21213x1||ZAAKI (GB)||Annabel Neasham||Ms Jamie Kah||5||59kg||118|
|2||1x55226x21||I’M THUNDERSTRUCK (NZ)||Mick Price & Michael Kent (Jnr)||Mark Zahra||6||59kg||115|
|3||4x68x21x72||ALLIGATOR BLOOD||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Tim Clark||2||59kg||112|
|4||14x3441x11||MR BRIGHTSIDE (NZ)||Ben & JD Hayes||Craig Williams||4||59kg||112|
|5||2543x26x03||MO’UNGA (NZ)||Annabel Neasham||Hugh Bowman (late alt)||3||59kg||110|
|6||2x64122x87||NONCONFORMIST||Grahame Begg||Jordan Childs||1||59kg||108|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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