Juvenile Race Shapes As Millennium Preview

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Annabel Neasham

The lure of next month’s $2 million Inglis Millennium has convinced trainer Annabel Neasham to roll the dice and run juvenile Ashema at Randwick despite an outside draw.

The filly will jump from barrier 13 in Saturday’s The Paul Hoffman Handicap (1000m) and while it isn’t ideal, Neasham believes it is preferable to waiting a week and facing a seven-day back-up into the Millennium.

“It’s a terrible barrier but you can wait a week and still draw badly,” Neasham said.

“If she wasn’t an Inglis horse I probably would wait a week but she’s going to be right up there in the market for the Inglis Millennium and I certainly wouldn’t back her up in a race like that.”

Owned by a partnership that includes the powerful Aquis operation which has entrusted Neasham with many of its horses, Ashema finished second to Acrobat at her only start in the Inglis Nursery in December.

It is strong form with Acrobat currently sitting on the second line of Golden Slipper betting.

Ashema has likewise been kept safe in markets for Saturday’s race for which she is a $3 TAB fixed odds favourite.

She has posted a barrier trial win since her debut and Neasham says the filly has continued to improve at home.

“She went quite soft into the Inglis Nursery. I didn’t have time to trial her twice so she just had the one trial and Rachel (King) thought she held her breath a bit the first 600 before she relaxed into it,” Neasham said.

“She ran super and still did a couple of little things wrong. I think she’s learned a lot from that.”

Ashema will be one of several youngsters vying to win on Saturday to secure their place in the field for the Inglis Millennium (1100m) at Randwick on February 6.

Second favourite Arthur Francis, who is unbeaten in two trials, will make his debut for John O’Shea and is among those eligible for the sales-restricted race having been purchased at the Melbourne Premier sale for $60,000.

Matthew Smith will saddle up two Inglis buys headed by Chamelon Choice, who is a $9 chance after showing speed to finish third on debut at Flemington earlier this month.

He will be joined in the race by stablemate Mistaken Identity.

Bought for just $9000 at the Classic sale’s Highway session, Mistaken Identity showed ability at her only start when she made ground to finish fifth to Slipper favourite Enthaar in the Gimcrack Stakes.

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