Neasham Hoping Lady Rises To Occasion Again In Doncaster

By Ray Hickson

There’s been a lesson for trainer Annabel Neasham in the rise and rise of outstanding mare Lady Laguna to the top echelon this season.

Annabel Neasham (Pic: Trackside).

She’s always been a talent but around a year ago she was at a crossroad as she passed 12 months out of the winner’s stall but a string of placings at Group level and an overdue Listed win in Brisbane encouraged connections to race on beyond her three-year-old year.

And they’ve reaped the rewards. She’s banked around $1.5m in prizemoney from four wins and three seconds this season including the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes.

Neasham said it’s been a dream run with Lady Laguna and she can only hope it continues in Saturday’s Group 1 $4m The Star Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Royal Randwick.

“You’re always learning as a trainer and one thing she’s taught me is to remember horses keep improving as a four-year-old,’’ Neasham said.

“What you see as a three-year-old isn’t always the finished article.

“She showed enough to race on at four, this time last year when she was placing in the Arrowfield and PJ Bell we never thought she’d go on and be a weight-for-age Group 1 winner.

“She’s reached new heights.”

The four-year-old passed a big test at 1500m when she just failed to peg back Veight in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes two weeks ago and drops to 51kg for the Doncaster.

Michael Dee, who has ridden the mare a few times, takes the ride and Neasham said with the prospect of a wet track she’s drawn ideally in gate 10.

“The nice thing with her is I’ll go to bed on Friday night not worrying whether it’s a heavy 10 or a good 3,’’ Neasham said.

“She's drawn in the middle which on a rain affected track is going to be perfect.

“Always with her you just ride her where she’s happy. She’s best ridden with a bit of a sit, we’ve often seen her as a younger horse up on the pace, and she’s got good gate speed, but it should enable us to give her a nice smothered run.

“A few people are querying, including Tyler (Schiller), whether she gets the mile but that might have been because he’d already taken a ride in the Doncaster.

“She’s probably the toughest horse I’ve got in the stable, she’s one you can race in three states across a campaign and she’s vey fit. She’s probably going to be the fittest horse in the field.”

Neasham went within a narrow margin of her first Doncaster win last year with My Oberon running second to Mr Brightside and says it’s a race anyone involved in racing covets.

“It’s a time honoured race, one of those races we all want to win. If I could do it with OTI it would be extra special, they’ve been really big supporters of mine,’’ she said.

Lady Laguna, $13 with TAB on Tuesday, completed her build up for the Doncaster with a gallop on Tuesday morning alongside stablemate Sunshine In Paris who takes her place in a star-studded edition of the Group 1 $3m James Squire TJ Smith Stakes (1200m) on Saturday.

After missing the bulk of the spring, and a TAB Everest slot, through injury she showed she’s back in business with a slashing second in the Group 1 Galaxy last month.

“I thought her first-up run was very good and she made ground on the worst part of the track,’’ Neasham said.

“She’s going here in good order and will be improved up to 1200m.

“A heavy would be an unknown, she’s had two soft track runs and I’m told (her sire) Invader was a very good wet tracker so all you can do is try.

“If she handles it, I think she’s going to be hard to beat. She’s going there on the up and has it all ahead of her.”

Sunshine In Paris won the Group 1 Surround Stakes as a three-year-old last year and was sold for $3.9 million at a broodmare sale in May, snapped up by John Camilleri.

“He gave a good throw for her at the mares sale and at this stage she looks like she’s going to reward him, she’s certainly one of the most exciting horses I’ve ever laid eyes on,’’ Neasham said.