By Ray Hickson
Trainer Annabel Neasham’s hunch is that talented colt Prague is more a sprinter than a potential Guineas horse so Saturday’s Group 3 $160,000 Aquis Eskimo Prince Stakes (1200m) at Randwick will go a long way to firming up or changing that view.
It’ll be Prague’s first run under Neasham’s name though she’s well versed in the colt given she guided him through last autumn in her role as Warwick Farm assistant trainer to Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
He’s had just the one trial for an eye-catching second behind Mizzy in a 900m heat on January 21 and that told Neasham more than enough.
“I think he’s come back really well, he seems strong and I thought his trial was very good,’’ she said.
“He pulled up extremely well in the wind so I decided to leave it to one trial. I wasn’t sure at the start of the prep if he’d be ready for this race but he’s come to hand so quickly.
“He has one of the best sets of lungs you’d see on a horse, he barely blows when he does his work.”
The three-year-old only raced twice in the spring but showed his class at two with a Group 1 Sires’ Produce placing alongside wins in the Canonbury and Pago Pago Stakes.
If Neasham has a reservation about Prague, $7 with TAB on Thursday, it’s his tendency to jump casually in barrier trials. It’s something she saw twice in the spring before he went to Melbourne and in his latest hitout.
How he jumps in the Eskimo Prince will go a long way to determining where he lands.
“He was always quick out as a two-year-old so I hope that isn’t a habit,’’ she said.
“Horses with good gate speed normally put themselves in a race and that gives them a much better chance so it will depend how he jumps.
“Either way he has a great turn of foot and he also has a high cruising speed. Tommy (Berry) is the best rider in Sydney at the moment so we’ll leave it up to him.”
Global Quest ($31) is another new recruit to the Neasham team, this time from Chris Waller, and she has no doubt he’s a potential Guineas horse if he can put his best foot forward.
The colt split Farnan and North Pacific in the Silver Slipper last year but his best effort in the spring was a second to Mo’unga, also now trained by Neasham, in the Dulcify at 1500m.
“He’s a very straightforward horse, he’s working more like a 1400m-mile horse,’’ she said.
“I think he will improve off what he does this weekend but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was right up there in the finish.
“If he’s hitting the line strong I’d be happy and we’d be looking to a race like the Hobartville.”
Neasham has two fillies contesting the $2m Inglis Millennium (1100m) in Ashema and Jessica Rabbit and is expecting both to run creditable races.
Ashema, $8.50 with TAB, finished second to Acrobat on debut in the Inglis Nursery then was hampered by a wide gate in her third placing to Stay Inside at Randwick two weeks ago.
“She was carrying 57kg and that combined with the wide gate, and the fact she got quite warm, were contributing factors,’’ she said.
“She can improve off that, she had a good blow. You have to get a bit of work into her so she will take natural improvement from that run.
Prague runs second in a trial at Randwick on January 21
“She’s drawn well and she has the favourite inside her so it all looks much better. We’ll put the pre-race (ear) muffs on her to try to get her to relax before the race as I think that will be key to her chances.”
Jessica Rabbit is a $61 chance but her trainer believes the last start Doomben winner is over the odds.
“She deserves her chance, she’s been working with Ashema and her work has been pleasing. One thing you know about her is she will give you 200 per cent effort,’’ she said.
Annabel Neasham on Osamu (Inglis Sprint): “I’m glad we rode him as we did first-up, he has to learn to relax behind horses. I was delighted with the run, Emanate got her head in front and our horse fought back. He will settle where he’s comfortable, I’ll leave that to Jason (Collett) and I think Jason will really suit him.”
On Selica (Agency Real Estate Mile): “I’d like her to be further forward in the run than what she was the other day. She doesn’t have a massive turn of foot, I think you could make your run a long way out and sustain it but she didn’t get that opportunity. If it looks like she can be positive and in a forward spot we will be riding her more aggressively.”