Keiai Nautique left out of Cox Plate as favourite Zaaki draws barrier six

A select field of 10 will line up in Saturday’s Cox Plate after the Moonee Valley race’s committee knocked back an acceptance from aspirant Keiai Nautique.

Sydney trainer Matthew Smith said on Sunday that he would have loved his Japanese import to gain a start, but the committee decided the fact the horse hadn’t won a race in more than three years meant he didn’t warrant a Cox Plate berth.

“It was a line-ball decision. There was a lot of debate around the committee table this morning,” Moonee Valley Racing Club chief executive Michael Browell said.

“He’s had a couple of good runs since coming out [from Japan] … but his form hasn’t quite been there.”

Three-year-old Forgot You didn’t accept to run in the Cox Plate, and will instead head to the Vase.

Cox Plate favourite Zaaki will get every chance in Saturday’s race after drawing barrier six, while his main danger Anamoe will jump from the outside barrier in 10.

The connections of Zaaki’s stablemate Mo’unga had first crack at the barriers, choosing to jump from four, after the pair worked alongside each at Tuesday’s breakfast with the best.

Cox Plate favourite Zaaki has drawn barrier six.Credit:Getty Images

“It was pretty much the same sort of work that he and Mo’unga did on Saturday morning, maybe a little bit stronger, which was good to see. Zaaki was great through the line, strong on the bridle, so I couldn’t be happier,” Annabel Neasham’s assistant trainer Todd Pollard said.

“He seems to handle this track a lot better than what he did at Caulfield. Many people say that too. You come from Sydney and quite often they don’t handle the track, but they come to Moonee Valley, and they get on so much better with it. On his two pieces of work he’s got around the track perfect.”

Verry Elleegant, who drew barrier nine on Tuesday, worked solo under Damian Lane. She was keen in her work, but Lane held her together, running her last 400 metres in a conservative 24.99 seconds.

“Today was more of a maintenance gallop, but she was in much better order today,” Lane said.

Anamoe also worked on Tuesday under Craig Williams, alongside stablemate Best Of Days. The pair put in a strong piece of work, as did fellow three-year-old Captivant, who has drawn barrier one.

“He did a lot more work than he did on Saturday morning,” Yendall said of Captivant.

“He stretched out really nicely and I’m happy with how he went around and did his business this morning. He galloped round with one of Toby Edmonds. It’s what he needed and hopefully it will top him off for Saturday.”

Meanwhile, the Manikato field has attracted 13 horses, including Mick Price’s progressive sprinter Lombardo.

“He’s in the zone,” Price said.

“I didn’t bring him out today because he’s an energetic type of horse and don’t need to overdo him. He’s obviously won here.

“He worked this morning at Caulfield. He went super and is very well in himself. It looks an even Manikato this year.”

Only one group 1 winner – Savatoxl – lines up in the field, which is dominated by Ciaron Maher Racing fillies and mares Bella Nipotina, Crystal Bound, Sneaky Five and Away Game.

“Hopefully we unveil a new superstar, there’s certainly no Nature Strip in it, but they’re still tough enough to win,” said Maher, who struggled to split his four.

Troy Corstens also elected not to bring Swats That to Moonee Valley on Tuesday morning, instead working her at home at Flemington.

“As long as she is back to her best, which I think that she is, she is right in it up to her ears,” he said.

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