MacKinnon Stakes (Group 1)
SCRATCHED on race morning as a raging favourite in the Cox Plate, Zaaki got his redemption with a hollow win in the Group 1 MacKinnon Stakes, the final group race of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
Trained by Annabel Neasham, the British-bred Leroidesanimaux gelding nearly started ‘in the red’ and could have done so considering the ease of his win.
Breaking away to lead by four lengths on straightening up, the margin was just over a length on the line to another British-bred, Godolphin’s New Approach gelding Cascadian, whose eagerness in the middle stages did him no favours, while the stable-mate of the winner, the Savabeel horse Mo’unga was a three-length third.
Significantly, the win brought up a 10th Cup Carnival win for James McDonald breaking the record held by Brett Prebble of nine wins (in 1999 and 2000).
“It is probably my greatest three weeks in the saddle,” said McDonald, “It started with The Everest and it comes down to this fantastic carnival. I got some brilliant rides and, arguably, to take home the Holy Grail, the Melbourne Cup, it’s been the highest achievement.
“I obviously can’t do it without the support of all the trainers that have put me on this week, and the good horses that I’ve been so lucky to partner for the whole week.”
For Neasham the win was a balm for the disappointment of missing a shot at the Cox Plate.
“So satisfying. I was so nervous beforehand,” she said. “It’s so good for the team, Todd and Raphael who have been down here for six weeks and still running the show back at home, it’s a good team effort.
“He looked fresh in the run. He obviously hadn’t run for a month, but it was a beautiful ride by James who can do no wrong at the moment.
“I knew at the top of the straight that he had such a lapful of horse that I knew it would take a good one to run him down.”