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The Ex Factor with Nathan Exelby

Well-known Queensland media man Nathan Exelby is a constant at the track and has all the inside information as we head into another big weekend of racing in the Sunshine State.

ZAAKI TO REPEAT THE DOSE 

ZAAKI attempts to become the shortest priced favourite since MIGHT AND POWER in 1998 to win the Doomben Cup when he defends his title on Saturday. 

It’s a race where favourites have a strong record, having won 12 in the past 30 years. Zaaki added to the success story when he was backed into $2.25 before romping home 12 months ago.

There will be no black figures available this year, but again, I’m surprised at the generosity of the current quote. 

TAB is betting $1.50 after he went to the post at $1.45 before winning the Hollindale.

Granted, he wasn’t as impressive in the Hollindale this year as he was last, but the ‘gluey’ conditions that day were said not to suit him, in addition to the fact both Annabel Neasham and James McDonald noted he was very much on the ‘fresh’ side that day.

Neasham has done everything possible to train the freshness out of Zaaki in the past fortnight; he’s made visits to Eagle Farm on Saturday and Tuesday for course proper gallops and Brodie Loy gave a glowing endorsement after his work on Tuesday morning.

The track will again be wet, but very likely a much different surface to the Gold Coast, with lots of rain forecast on Saturday.

POLLY GREY is the only other runner under double figures ($8) after pegging ground off Zaaki at the Coast. Her chances improve the deeper the track goes into the Heavy range.

But the way Zaaki handled the best 2000m horses in the country on the Heavy 10 track in the Queen Elizabeth says to me he’s going to be good enough to cope with whatever is served up this weekend. 

DOOMBEN IN LAP OF THE GODS 

The weather forecast is the key to this meeting. Fortunately, little rain has fallen in the first half of the week and Doomben has managed to dodge some of the heavier falls around Brisbane.

Friday’s forecast is a little more damning, but it’s all about Saturday.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting 25-35mm to fall on Saturday. Weatherzone paints a slightly better picture, with a forecast of 10-20mm.

It all comes down to when that rain falls. 

Track Manager Ross Smith says the track can now cope with more rain given it hasn’t received a lot this week, but heavy or persistent rain during the meeting will make getting through a full card problematical, with visibility sure to become a talking point. 

A lot has been asked this week about contingency plans, but Doomben is the only option, with Eagle Farm being readied for the Derby Day meeting on Saturday week and then the Oaks and the Stradbroke the two Saturdays after that.

Because of recent renovations, Eagle Farm needs to adhere to a strict maintenance plan and having five meetings on consecutive Saturdays was not an option.

Hopefully it’s a moot point, but if the meeting doesn’t run its full course, I’m sure Racing Queensland will look at trying to get at least the two features – the Cup and the Roses – run at some stage next week.

Doomben is scheduled to race next Wednesday.

FILLIES FROM FAR AND WIDE IN ROSES 

The Queensland Oaks is shaping as a puzzler for punters, with formlines coming from all directions.

Saturday’s Doomben Roses underlines the diversity of formlines for the traditional Group 2 lead-up to the Queensland Oaks in a fortnight. 

The favourite BARB RAIDER ($4.40) is off a narrow last start defeat in the Group 1 Australasian Oaks; SMIRK ($6.50), GIN MARTINI ($16), STALKING ($10) and MOKOLUA ($26) are all off the Gold Coast Bracelet; BISCAYNE BAY ($14) is off a sound enough effort in the ATC Oaks; BELLE SAVOIR ($9.50) and ARAVENE ($9) are off promising runs in Melbourne; and CHILKO LAKE ($10) is coming off Warwick Farm and Kembla Grange wins on Heavy ground. 

Meanwhile, the three favourites for the race are cooling their heels at home: GYPSY GODDESS ($2.80), DYNASTIES ($8) and GLINT OF HOPE ($8). 

The Roses, first run in 1996, has provided the winner of the Queensland Oaks on 12 occasions, with ETHEREAL (2001), SCARLETT LADY (2011) and YOUNGSTAR (2018) the only three horses to win both. 

Barb Raider has the right form for this year’s Roses, but her only exposure to a really heavy track produced a flop in the ATC Oaks, so punters might skirt wider.

For mine, Biscayne Bay looks over the odds in Saturday’s field off the fifth in the Sydney Oaks and a placing in last year’s VRC Oaks. The wide barrier will likely be offset to a large degree by the wet track, where jockeys will be looking to get off the fence a long way from home. 

STRADBROKE CREDENTIALS ON THE LINE 

The Group 3 BRC Sprint produced the Stradbroke winner last year, with TOFANE finishing second under a big weight to Emerald Kingdom. 

The market is telling us a repeat is unlikely, with BUFFALO RIVER ($34), who races in the same colours as Tofane, the highest ranked BRC Sprint contestant in Stradbroke betting.

That aligns with the market for Saturday’s race, where the Mike Moroney trained runner is the $5 favourite, just ahead of the in-form mudlark TAKSU ($6). 

He’s won just one of his past 14 starts and only gets a 2.5kg weight drop into a deeper race here, so I’m prepared to risk him at the odds.

I thought SOXAGON was outstanding first up at the Gold Coast, handling the heavy ground comfortably and racing away under his big weight. He’s at $8.50 for this and $51 in the Stradbroke and I can entertain him in both races. 

DAWN PASSAGE returns to Doomben for the first time since winning the Fred Best Classic two years ago. 

He hasn’t won since but hasn’t had a huge amount of racing and did run a big race fresh in the Archer when eye-balling APACHE CHASE and only succumbing late to that horse and eventual winner EMERALD KINGDOM (a rival here, along with 4th placed HOLYFIELD). 

He just missed in a Golden Eagle on very wet ground, so he’s one in this race I also want onside given the $15 available. 

There’s a stack of other chances in this race as well, so I’m tipping there will be at least one runner in this field marked shorter than $34 in the Stradbroke come Saturday night.

BEST BETS 

Roman Aureus, Race 2, $11
Zougotcha, Race 3, $2.40
Miss Hipstar, Race 9, $10

Catch Nathan Exelby on The Playbook every Thursday night on Sky Thoroughbred Central (Ch528). Nathan also appears on Sky Thoroughbred Central’s weekday coverage, RadioTAB’s Saturday morning preview of Queensland’s feature meeting and the Brisbane Racing Club website and social media platforms.

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