By Ray Hickson
A horse like Mo’unga doesn’t often just walk into a freshman trainer’s stable so Annabel Neasham knows how fortunate she is.
The classy three-year-old came to Neasham from Chris Waller with a reputation of a rising star and he has the chance to prove it in Saturday’s $1m Mostyn Copper Randwick Guineas (1600m).
It’ll be a special day for Neasham, who did her apprenticeship alongside some of the biggest names in racing – most recently as Ciaron Maher and David Eustace’s Sydney assistant trainer - with Mo’unga in Sydney and Prague in Melbourne her first starters at the top level.
“Everyone wants to win Group 1s, if we can do it in our first year of training it’d be fairly special,’’ Neasham said.
“All my owners have been great, I haven’t felt pressurised. When you have horses like Mo’unga and Prague, horses who are hopefully going to stand at stud, there’s an element of pressure there.
“I’m quite good at not letting pressure get to me, I think you have to enjoy it but I’m sure there will be a few nerves come Saturday lunch time.”
Mo’unga is considered by the market, $6.50 with TAB, as the biggest threat to Kiwi sensation Aegon and Neasham was rapt with his first-up third behind Tagaloa in the CS Hayes (1400m) at Flemington last month.
The colt wears blinkers for the first time, on the recommendation of jockeys James McDonald and Jamie Kah, and she said there’s been a change in the horse since he’s been working in them.
“He doesn’t show you a massive amount at home and he doesn’t show the punters much in trials,’’ she said.
“A few people have told me that’s just him so it was a bit of a relief that he ran so well.
“He’s been working very well, he’s had two gallops with the shades on and it seems to have switched him on. They will help him travel, he never looks like he travels all that well in the run.
“I think everybody is going to need to find a length or two to get near Aegon and hopefully they might make the difference.”
It’s easy to forget that Mo’unga was the boom three-year-old in the spring when he raced away with the Listed Dulcify Stakes (1500m) in September before switching south for a midfield finish in the Caulfield Guineas.
Tommy Berry has the ride on Mo’unga and Neasham said she won’t saddle him with too many instructions other than she’d like to see the colt have his share of galloping room.
“The only negative with a horse like him is you don’t want to get cluttered up on the fence because he does need winding up,’’ she said.
“But you want to save as much ground as you can and conserve as much energy as you can.
“I think he can definitely give it a good shake this week. The way he ran I think a lot of people may be thinking the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) is his race and I hope it will be.
“They ran good time that day and he was only a tick slower than September Run’s last furlong so he was good on the watch. He can be really competitive at Group 1 level over a mile as well.”
Mo'unga winning at Rosehill in September
Two-year-old Flying Witness made a promising debut a few weeks ago and Neasham is giving her the chance to dive into the Golden Slipper picture in the Group 2 $300,000 Yarraman Park Reisling Stakes (1200m).
The $30,000 purchase isn’t nominated for the Slipper and Neasham thinks she’s more a next preparation prospect but will be happy to have the dilemma of paying a late entry fee if she happened to win.
Flying Witness, $17 with TAB, debuted with a close fourth, beaten less than a length, on a heavy track at Canterbury three weeks ago.
“I thought she ran really well first-up, a little bit green but she was doing her best work late which is what you like to see,’’ she said
“I think the bigger track will suit her, she’s going to be better next prep but she’s shown enough at home so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her run a good race.”