Co-trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, who will be striving for back to back victories in the Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic at the Gold Coast on January 16 with the I Am Invincible filly Fake Love, will be looking over their shoulders at a new rival in the training ranks this year who, at this stage, is also targeting the Classic with Ghostwriter and Queen Of Wizardry.
That’s ‘new’ in terms of just how long Annabel Neasham has held her license, but she is anything but an unknown quantity for Maher and Eustace, with Neasham having worked for the Maher/Eustace team to good effect for close to four years before branching out on her own at the start of the 2020/21 racing season.
At the time she left the Maher/Eustace yard, Neasham was running the Sydney arm of the stable, a position which underlined the level of trust the stable had in her commitment and her expertise.
Neasham has described that role as being ‘a great experience and a real learning curve,’ and it was one filled with challenges … working with the horses, handling clients, learning the business side of things … all of which she took in her stride.
And Neasham was fast out of the gates as a trainer in her own right, saddling her first winner with her first runner in Australia on August 25, 2020 when Commanding Missile saluted at Scone. And her next two runners won as well … Commanding Missile (again) on September 11 and Zarzou on September 30.
Neasham was well and truly on her way.
To date Neasham has saddled ten winners from thirty-seven runners for a healthy strike rate of 27%. Her list of ten winners … which has been achieved by seven individual runners … includes her two Magic Millions Classic contenders, Ghostwriter and Queens Of Wizardry.
Ghostwriter won two trials before getting the chocolates on debut at Doomben on October 24. In his two subsequence starts Ghostwriter finished in sixth place in both of the two feature races he contested … coming home 2.40 lengths behind the Maher/Eustace trained Sneaky Five in the $1 million Golden Gift and 6.25 lengths behind Alpine Edge in the Group 3 B J McLachlan Stakes.
For her part, Queen Of Wizardry scored a spectacular debut win at Eagle Farm on Saturday. The Not A Single Doubt filly was unwanted in the betting, drifting from $19 to $31, but she made a mockery of those odds when powering home from last, after having to switch around heels, to score in telling fashion … a performance which had the bookmaker’s bending their elbows back the other way as they cut her odds for the Magic Millions Classic from $101 … pre-Saturday’s race win … to just $17 with Sportsbet.
Two-year-olds are two-year-olds … they can improve over-night, or they tease you into thinking they have something which they then might not produce on any given day when inexperience catches them out.
All you can do is get them into the big races and then take it from there.
Apart from Neasham, In the current order of entry only Chris Waller and the Peter and Paul Snowden training partnership have more than one runner in the Magic Millions Two-Year-Old Classic.
That’s not bad company for a ‘rookie’ trainer.
Neasham will certainly take her place on Magic Millions day on her own terms and, as Queen Of Wizardry showed on Saturday, if you choose to ignore the Neasham runners you might be doing so at your own peril.