Another Navy salute for Zaki, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

Another Navy salute for Zaki

Unassuming Kelantan-born jockey navigates From The Navy to a fourth win at Kranji

Kelantan is famous for its kuda padis (local ponies) and bareback riders, not quite seafarers.

But one of its finest exports, Mohd Zaki gets along with From The Navy like a house on fire.

The 42-year-old was among the first jockeys from the north-eastern Malaysian state to move to Kranji in 2002. Kelantan has since built a strong reputation as a cradle of natural riders like A’Isisuhairi Kasim, Shafiq Rizuan and recent dual-Singapore champion jockey Hakim Kamaruddin.

Zaki has not basked in the limelight as often, but he seems to have found his kuda padi at Kranji.

Ever since the former Hideyuki Takaoka stalwart joined trainer Shane Baertschiger early last year, he has teamed up with From The Navy in more than half of his 28 starts. He has ridden the Hinchinbrook five-year-old to the last four of his six wins at Kranji.

Bar the first successful combination last September, the victories were all forged from pillar to post – which is probably the telling factor of their near-perfect chemistry.

When Ruan Maia and Matthew Kellady won with From The Navy, they swooped down from behind.

It is well documented that Zaki has a knack of stealing races when he dictates terms. A fair share of his 178 Kranji wins were forged in that catch-me-if-you-can fashion, most notably his jaw-dropping 2020 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy win aboard pick-up ride and $276 shot Nepean – which was to be the clincher for the Baertschiger job.

What probably makes Zaki click with those free-striding gallopers is that clock in the head.

He gets them out of the pens without using brute strength while saving enough petrol for that final assault to the line.

In Saturday’s $50,000 Class 4 Division 2 race over 1,200m, Zaki gave another masterclass. He bounced From The Navy from barrier No. 3, let him settle for a few strides before deftly manoeuvring him to the top of the lane.

From there, he rated the race to a nicety, despite the pesky presence of Nate’s Champion (Zyrul Nor Azman) and Safeer (Bernardo Pinheiro) on his outside.

Granted, his whipping style will not be material shown in Jockeys’ 101, but a couple of those staccato whacks inside the last 200m got the job done. Montana Flash (Hakim) tried to draw on level terms but could only come within half a length.

Webster, on whom new apprentice jockey Fahmi Rosman was trying to go one better from a creditable debut second, could only finish third this time.

From The Navy ran the 1,200m on the short course in 1min 9.95sec.

Zaki is not exactly a wordsmith when dissecting a win post-race. But, then again, the art of riding front-runners does not really require lengthy spiels.

“This horse suits me. I thank the trainer for giving me the opportunity,” he said.

“He can go quite hard, but when we get to the front, he settles. I leave it to the horse, and thank God, he’s given me a win. That’s all.”

Baertschiger can be a tough taskmaster, but he certainly could not give Zaki a spray on this one.

“Zaki rode him good. No-one wanted to lead, he took his own initative to take it up,” said the Australian handler.

“This horse has taken a long time to mature, but he has come up by leaps and bounds. With 58kg on his back, it was a very good effort.

“The form was franked. He’s quite a hard horse to handle.

“The form was weaker but he’ll be in Class 3 now. It’ll be interesting to see how he goes.”

One thing is for sure, he will not be all at sea with Zaki.