By Ray Hickson
Everything but the barrier tells trainer Annabel Neasham that Ashema should continue her preparation for the Inglis Millennium and Golden Slipper at Randwick on Saturday.
The promising filly, who was runner-up to boom colt Acrobat on debut in December, will have to contend with the outside barrier in the Paul Hoffman Handicap (1000m) but Neasham says it’s the right race and hopes Tommy Berry can weave some magic.
Plan B would be to run in the Group 3 Widden Stakes on Saturday week but that would rule out the $2m Inglis Millennium (1100m) at Randwick on February 6 which is Neasham’s preferred stepping stone towards the Slipper.
“It’s one of those things at the moment, juggling where to run them. At some stage you’ve got to stop wrapping them up and get them out,’’ Neasham said.
“I’d love to get enough prizemoney to get her into a Slipper but you only have a certain number of runs so it is important where you run them.
“The Slipper in my mind is above and beyond any of the other races to try and win. But if we can get to the Slipper by winning the Millennium on the way then even sweeter.”
Ashema started a well supported favourite and led when she bumped into Acrobat in the Inglis Nursery and she sits on the third line of betting for the Inglis Millennium with TAB at $8 and is a $34 chance in the Golden Slipper.
Neasham said Ashema was a bit soft going into her debut so was impressed with the effort and believes she’s come on since that run as evidenced by an easy trial win last week.
“I think she is sharp and that’s why I’d like to run her over 1000m first-up. It’ll take a good ride from Tommy to get into a nice spot,’’ she said.
“I spoke to Tommy, he reckons he’s an expert at riding three wide no cover and winning at Randwick.”
“She galloped at Canterbury last week and Tommy was happy with her then she worked with Osamu on Tuesday and was impressive.”
Despite the awkward barrier, Ashema was the $3 favourite on Thursday to enhance her claims for the rich features.
Ashema’s workmate Osamu likely makes his debut for Neasham in the ANZ Bloodstock News Handicap (1100m) though the trainer did accept for a set weights maiden at Kembla Grange as well.
Osamu, $5 with TAB, is yet to win in nine starts under Chris Waller but he was runner-up to Mamaragan in the Group 2 Skyline Stakes at two and last raced when second in the Listed Gothic Stakes at Caulfield in October.
“I can see why eight of his nine starts have been in stakes races, he works like a stakes horse,’’ Neasham said.
“I’ve ridden him myself and he gives a hell of a good feel.”
The colt was runner-up to Rule Of Law in a barrier trial at Rosehill last week and Neasham believes he’s sharp enough to be competitive fresh.
“I thought I’d trial him twice and maybe look at a maiden or the Inglis Sprint but he trialled very well and I thought instead of going to a second trial we’d run over 1000m or 1100m first-up,’’ she said.
Ashema wins a trial at Rosehill on January 15
There’s an air of confidence from Neasham about last start Group 3 placegetter Selica ahead of the TAB Handicap (1600m).
The four-year-old was beaten just over a length by Threeood in the Belle Of The Turf at Gosford and it appears a win in Saturday’s race is important to Neasham’s autumn carnival plans.
“She got some black type in Adelaide but the most valuable black type is Sydney so if we can win that race and bump her rating up a bit and hopefully get her into some nice mares races in the autumn,’’ she said.
“She’s been ticking along beautifully. I thought her run at Gosford was really good, she just peaked the last 50m.
“She was only second-up against some rock hard mares so I thought it was a good effort.
“I think it’ll be an ideal race and we have Louise (Day)’s claim which will help. She’s a great chance from that barrier (two).”