Hong Kong’s loss is Perth’s gain with Zaaki confirmed to make the journey west in a bid to claim further Group 1 success at the Pinnacles carnival at Ascot.
The nine-year-old had been entered for the Hong Kong Mile and Hong Kong Cup, but will target the Group 1 Northerly Stakes (1800m) in Perth on December 9.
“He will tackle the Northerly Stakes at this stage, maybe the Railway Stakes (1600m), but we’ll work that out later in the week,” said Rob Archibald, Annabel Neasham’s racing manager.
“The quarantine restrictions in Hong Kong meant it was pretty much going to be a seven week trip, whereas in Perth he can go over and race and be back a couple of days after he runs.”
Zaaki goes into the Northerly Stakes at weight for age after running fourth to Atishu in last Saturday’s Champion Stakes (2000m) at Flemington.
“I think he is going as well as ever,” Archibald said.
“In his last two starts in the Cox Plate and Champion Stakes he’s drawn out wide in both and had to work early.
“In the Champion Stakes the tempo was disrupted when Jamie Spencer pushed forward on his horse and made it difficult for us.
“But he wasn’t beaten much, a length and a half and I think he is going really well, couldn’t fault him really.
“It’s a bit of an unknown, we’ve never had a horse there before, but I’m confident he can run well.
“I think he’s going to be hard to beat whichever races he goes to over there.
“If he can arrive in good order I’m confident he can be competitive.”
Zaaki has been a stable pinup for Neasham, winning four Group 1 races including the Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) twice, the Doomben Cup (2000m) and Underwood Stakes (1800m).
The gelding also won the $5 million All-Star Mile at Flemington in 2022.
Zaaki’s career record stands at 15 wins and 17 placings from 47 starts and close to $11 million in prizemoney.
Champion jockey James McDonald will ride Zaaki in the Northerly Stakes. He’s been given permission by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and returns for their international meeting the following day.
The Northerly Stakes is run at Ascot on December 9
Zaaki is $3.60 and current favourite with Tabtouch for the Northerly Stakes.