Such is the aura surrounding veteran Sydney galloper Zaaki, champion jockey William Pike fears rivals maybe running for second spot in Saturday’s G1 Northerly Stakes (1800m) at Ascot.
Zaaki, a four-time winner at the elite level with $10.8 million in prizemoney, is clearly the highest-rated runner in Perth's weight-for-age feature and the rock-solid favourite.
Zaaki has been a stable pinup for UK-born trainer, Annabel Neasham, winning four Group 1 races under her tutelage: the Mackinnon Stakes twice, the Doomben Cup and Underwood Stakes.
Neesham said three weeks between runs and back to 1800m will suit Zaaki and goes a long way to making her first visit to Ascot's Pinnacles carnival a positive one.
Pike rides local hope Alsephina, competitive, but the bridesmaid this campaign after second placings in the Railway Stakes, Peters Stakes and Asian Beau Stakes.
WA's leading hoop says with Zaaki in the Northerly Stakes line-up, there is proven and talented opposition that is against him.
"With Zaaki in the race, we are not used to that calibre of horse or seen the likes of him for quite a while," Pike said to The Races WA.
"We have had a few nice horses targeting our races, but not often do we get a star like Zaaki come across.
"If he turns up, he looks awfully hard to beat and it could be a one-sided affair."
Zaaki, to be ridden by champion jockey, James McDonald, has drawn barrier 10.
The gelding ran a sound sixth to Romantic Warrior in the Cox Plate and fourth behind Atishu in the Champions Stakes before coming to Perth.
Pike steers Alsephina, from the stables of Grant and Alana Williams, from gate six.
He believes the weight of expectation on Alsephina has been too high.
"Everything has been good, it's just the expectation," Pike said.
"I don't know whether its me riding her or the combination with Grant and Alana.
"When you don't get the results you look for a reason or excuse, but I don't think there has been too many of either, other than it hasn't been our day.
"She's never done anything wrong the whole preparation, she's run second in a Group 1 (Railway), second in the lead ups.
"We're not all that far away from winning the race and I've drawn good again, can't complain about the barriers.
"And I actually meet a lot of the field better at the weights than I did in the Railway."
Zaaki dominates Tab touch betting at $2.45. Alsephina is next at $7 and three-year-old hope A Lot Of Good Men $9.
Pike is desperate to win the final Group 1 event of the year before commencing his suspension arising out of last week's Winterbottom meeting.
Pike and Grant and Alana Williams can claim their third Northerly Stakes as a partnership after Perfect Reflection was successful in 2016 and Arcadia Queen (2019) three years later.