One of the horses tipped to win the 2021 Cox Plate has been scratched hours out from the highly-anticipated event.
The 2040m race at Melbourne's Mooney Valley Racecourse is scheduled to get underway on Saturday evening at 7.10pm (NZT), with Zaaki touted as one of the favourites to claim the $NZ3.1 million prize money.
But on Saturday morning, trainer Annabel Neesham confirmed the British horse would not take part in the event.
"Absolutely devastated to report that Zaaki had been scratched from the Cox Plate due to an elevated temperature. Gutted for connections and James McDonald," she said in a statement.
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TAB bookmakers were so confident Zaaki would take out the Cox Plate, they paid out the triumph last month.
Earlier on Friday, Gold Trip was scratched from the weight-for-age race due to lameness in its legs.
"He felt fine to me," Gold Trip jockey Damien Oliver told Racing.com.
"(Gold Trip) felt fine to me last week when I galloped him. Hopefully, he does take his place because he's obviously a really good horse. For me, he's sound and I have no problems with his action, and I'm very comfortable to ride him if he takes his place on Saturday."
Showers are forecast on Friday (2 to 6mm) and Saturday (2 to 5mm) but it's unlikely we'll see a repeat of last year's Soft 7 track unless the meteorologists have missed the mark.