Favourite Zaaki scratched from Cox Plate after Gold Trip was ruled out

Warwick Barr and wiresThe West Australian
Zaaki completes a trackwork session.
Camera IconZaaki completes a trackwork session. Credit: VINCE CALIGIURI/AAPIMAGE

Zaaki, the firm favourite to win the WS Cox Plate, has been withdrawn from Saturday’s $5 million race.

Trainer Annabel Neasham made the gut-wrenching decision to scratch the UK import moments before Saturday’s deadline.

“It’s gutting to be honest. Really frustrating. We take temperatures every morning and he’s never had an elevated temperature,” Neasham told SEN.

“These things happen and it’s just unfortunate timing.

“I just can’t believe it but I’ve got to be grateful I’ve got another horse who has got a live chance in the field.”

Zaaki was such an overwhelming favourite, the TAB paid out its Cox Plate win last month, including bets of $6000 at $2.80.

Eight runners will now face the starter after Friday’s controversial scratching of Gold Trip.

In a decision that is at odds with trainer Ciaron Maher’s opinion, Racing Victoria veterinarians ruled Gold Trip couldn’t take his place in the $5 million race because of lameness.

Maher and his co-trainer David Eustace have always maintained Gold Trip was fit to race after passing mandatory Racing Victoria scans since arriving in Australia.

Gold Trip’s champion jockey Damien Oliver also backed the stable’s assessment after riding the five-year-old in a track gallop last week.

“I find it unusual that no one asked me how the horse felt because I am the one putting my neck on the line riding the horse,” Oliver said.

“For me, he’s sound and I have no problems with his action.

“I haven’t volunteered this horse isn’t right. The horse felt fine to me last week when I galloped him.”

Zaaki's trainer Annabel Neasham.
Camera IconTrainer Annabel Neasham has been forced to scratch Zaaki from the $5 million WS Cox Plate. Credit: AAP

Neasham is left with Mo’unga as her runner in the prestigious weight-for-age contest over 2040m at Moonee Valley.

Mo’unga was a clear second seed for the trainer but is now on the fourth line of betting.

Neasham said all was not lost fo Zaaki’s spring and there is a chance her stable star could race during the four-day Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington.

“Hopefully we can get Zaaki right as quickly as we can. He’ll be back to fight another day,” she said.

Zaaki surged to the top of Cox Plate betting after a string of wins during the Queensland winter carnival.

He had held his place as the horse to beat despite a shock defeat at Caulfield two weeks ago.

Anamoe, Australia’s best three-year-old, has taken Zaaki’s spot as favourite ahead of the Chris Waller-trainer Verry Elleegant.

Trained by James Cummings, Anamoe will be attempting to complete the Caulfield Guineas-Cox Plate double for the Godolphin operation.

The valuable colt is a $2.90 chance with Verry Elleegant at $3.80 and the Irish-trained State Of Rest the third pick at $6.50 in a reshaped market.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails