Neasham back for more Hong Kong glory

Daryl Timms

26/04/2023 12:04

Annabel Neasham harbours high hopes for My Oberon.
Annabel Neasham harbours high hopes for My Oberon.

Already armed with some tantalising success at her first foray into Hong Kong racing last year with Laws Of Indices, Sydney-based trainer Annabel Neasham returns to Sha Tin for Sunday’s (30 April) HK$20 million FWD Champions Mile (1600m) with My Oberon.

Sent out at 54/1 in last December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), Laws Of Indices finished third to Hong Kong glamour horses California Spangle and Golden Sixty and boasts a similar profile to My Oberon.

Both geldings are Irish-bred and started their racing careers in Europe before being offered for sale and making their way to Neasham’s Warwick Farm stables.

A Group 3 and Listed winner in England, and also Group 1-placed in the G1 Prix d’Ispahan (1850m) in France in 2021, My Oberon made a sparkling Australian debut when he won the G2 Crystal Mile (1600m) at Moonee Valley in October, 2022.

The six-year-old has had five starts for Neasham, with the gelding’s most recent race rated one of the best of his career when he finished a narrow second to Mr Brightside in the G1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick Racecourse on 1 April.

England-born Neasham, who is in her third year as a head trainer, believes perhaps the biggest benefit she gained from racing in last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races was identifying the right type of horse needed to tackle the elite in what is regarded as the world’s most competitive racing jurisdiction.

My Oberon exercises at Sha Tin.
My Oberon exercises at Sha Tin.

Neasham, already an eight-time Group 1 winner, had considered returning to Hong Kong with Laws Of Indices for Sunday’s race but decided to keep the G1-winning entire in Australia because of a couple of injury issues.

And this time around Neasham will also do battle again with the two horses that rolled Laws Of Indices in December, world class Hong Kong gallopers Golden Sixty and California Spangle. New Zealand horse Aegon is the only other visitor.

“Law Of Indices has probably got better form on the board, but having said that My Oberon has gone close to winning a Doncaster and is a Group 2 winner in Australia,” Neasham said.

“I think they are similar style of horses and hopefully if we can get a similar result or go one or two better than we did in December, it would be great.”

Neasham has called on the skill and local knowledge of four-time Hong Kong premiership winning jockey Joao Moreira, who has been riding fulltime in Sydney since the end of March, to ride My Oberon. He has already had success in his first and only two rides for Neasham, winning the G2 Percy Sykes Stakes (1200m) on Kristilli and finishing third on Lady Laguna in the G2 Arrowfield 3yo Sprint (1200m) on the same day of The Championships at Randwick this month.

Joao Moreira takes the ride on My Oberon.
Joao Moreira takes the ride on My Oberon.

As part of Neasham’s business model, she has enlisted Australian-born bloodstock agent Stuart Bowman, of Blandford Bloodstock in Newmarket, to buy tried and slightly older horses from the UK which would be suited to Australian racing.

The biggest success story from the project so far is Zaaki - the winner of four Group 1 races, as well as the All-Star Mile – which was sourced by Blandford from the Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale.

“We have gone down a similar path with what we did with Zaaki and Top Ranked (former English galloper and now a G1 and G3 winner for Neasham) and buying slightly older horses as five-year-olds,” Neasham said.

“To buy those horses at three, it’s lottery money.

“We have slightly changed our model to buying five year-olds that are sound and I suppose like an older car they lose a bit of value in that sense but he (My Oberon) has already paid for himself and more since has been here.

“It’s hard to take one off Williams Haggas as he is one of the best trainers over there.”

While most of My Oberon’s top form was on good tracks in Europe, the gelding’s best two Australian performances have been on heavy tracks which Neasham admits has left her scratching her head a bit, especially knowing the gelding is extremely unlikely to get those conditions at Sha Tin.

She questioned whether My Oberon is a genuine wet tracker or just coming into form being third-up going into the FWD Champions Mile.

The answer could become clearer on Sunday.

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