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Replays Ease Neasham's Doncaster Barrier Worries With Mo'unga

By Ray Hickson

Glen Boss’s assertion that barriers don’t matter in the Star Doncaster Mile has played on trainer Annabel Neasham’s mind as she’s spent the week getting her head around star colt Mo’unga jumping from gate 19 in Saturday’s $3m feature.

Trainer Annabel Neasham (Pic: Grant Guy)

So she checked it out for herself and will head to Randwick confident that, with a little bit of luck, her Group 1 winning colt can conquer the famous mile.

Since Super Impose won from barrier 20 in 1990, horses jumping from double figure barrier draws have won 19 editions of the Doncaster Mile.

Neasham drew the ‘short straw’ with two of her three Doncaster hopes, import Zaaki has the extreme outside while Olmedo fared best in gate five.

“I’ve watched the last 10 years of replays, a lot of the old boys are telling me that barriers don’t matter in this race,’’ Neasham said.

“I’ve got a bit more confidence watching those past races because it does seem the case. A lot of horses that have drawn out and go back win this race, last year Nettoyer was near stone cold last.

“If there’s enough pace up front that will aid his chances. He’s gong to need luck of course, we saw him have no luck in the Randwick Guineas and it cost him the race.”

In recent years the George Ryder has been the most significant form reference for the Doncaster but Neasham is content with Mo’unga coming back from his gutsy Rosehill Guineas (2000m) win two weeks ago.

He’ll carry the same weight as the last three-year-old to win the Doncaster, that was Brutal in 2019, with Robbie Dolan snapping up the ride at 49.5kg.

“I don’t think I could have him any better,’’ Neasham said.

“He’s just a beautiful colt to do anything with, he’s the best tempered horse and a pleasure to ride. He’s a quality horse and hopefully he can win another one.

“Robbie is riding really well, he’s not a hard horse to ride. He has a great turn of foot, he just has to produce him at the right time.

“I would prefer it to be a good track because I think some of the main chances are good in the wet but I think we handle any ground.”

Neasham’s import Zaaki is the most fascinating runner in the Doncaster and while tackling the nation’s premier handicap mile is a big ask first-up off the plane she said the six-year-old has his share of talent.

Zaaki was a Group 3 winner at Epsom in June 2019 and Kerrin McEvoy rode him to a narrow defeat in a Group 2 at Ascot over a mile at his next start. He also ran third behind Benbatl in that preparation.

Since he arrived Neasham has been pleased with his work and his trials and scratches her head when she sees he’s an $81 chance in the TAB market.

“I’m confident about his chances on his home work then you look at the market and he’s a massive price,’’ she said.

“You have to ignore that, but the market isn’t usually too wrong. He just seems naturally a very fit horse, he’s quite forward and obviously he’s going to improve. If he could get a nice run I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run a nice race.

Mo'unga wins the Rosehill Guineas on March 27

“He has all the right form lines to win this race, I just wish we could have got him over earlier.

“If we had a lead up run two or three weeks ago I’d be bullish about him. He looks amazing, he’d leave most horses behind on the track at home and he’s trialled well.”

It’s fair to say Olmedo, Neasham’s third runner and a $101 outsider, hasn’t lived up to expectation since he arrived last year.

He was prepared by Kacy Fogden then switched to Chris Waller and is making his debut for the Warwick Farm trainer on the back of two trials under Tommy Berry who rides in the Doncaster.

“I thought his last trial was quite good, they went quick and he closed off well,’’ she said.

“On his day he’s as good as the good horses in this race. He likes a bit of galloping room and to be left alone a little bit. He ran well in the Cantala Stakes last prep so we’ll find out about him on Saturday.”

All the fields, form and replays for Day 1 of The Star Championships at Royal Randwick

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