Annabel Neasham striving to win more Group 1 races during Queensland winter carnival

Annabel Neasham’s quest for her second Group 1 win is gathering momentum with Saturday’s Gold Coast meeting to provide a springboard for a couple of contenders at the elite level.

The English-born trainer, who scored her maiden Group 1 win with Mo’unga in the Rosehill Guineas in March only eight months after taking out her trainers’ license, has the arsenal to be a serious winter carnival player.

One of her best Group 1 carnival chances could be waiting in the wings with Neasham bullish about the prospects of three-year-old colt Prague in the Kingsford-Smith Cup ($7 on and the Stradbroke Handicap a fortnight later ($21).

However Saturday’s Gold Coast meeting will showcase the potential Group 1 credentials of import Zaaki and three-year-old colt Wisdom Of Water.

Zaaki, who will be ridden by James McDonald in the Group 2 Hollindale Stakes (1800m), can stamp himself as a serious Doomben Cup player while Neasham believes Wisdom Of Water can bridge the gap between potential and performance.

But, firstly, to Zaaki, the emerging import who will be having his third Australian start after making his debut Down Under when sixth in the Doncaster Mile before being runner-up in the Group 3 JRA Plate (2000m) last start.

English import Zaaki is equal favourite for the Doomben Cup. Picture: AAPSource:AAP

Given the quality of the Hollindale, with contenders like Melody Belle, Avilius, Homesman and Fifty Stars, Neasham admits she thought Zaaki would be priced longer in the betting market than he is as $6 equal favourite.

But she is convinced he is top level.

“The Hollindale has got the quality of a Sydney field and I am a little bit surprised by his price if I am totally honest, because he doesn’t have the same credentials as some of these,” Neasham said.

“He is going to have to go to that next level but I think he can, I just get a real feeling about him that he is going to suit Australia even more than he suited England.”

Wisdom Of Water is onto his third trainer after being trained by Queenslanders Toby and Trent Edmonds at the start of his career where as a two-year-old he finished fourth behind Away Game in the Gold Coast Magic Millions Classic.

After being trained by Mick Price and Michael Kent Jr for a time in Melbourne, Wisdom Of Water has now had two starts for Neasham and she has seen enough to give him a crack at winter carnival riches.

Wisdom Of Water has accepted for two Gold Coast races on Saturday but appears most likely to race in the Listed Goldmarket where he has drawn favourably, rather than the Group 3 Gold Coast Guineas where he drew barrier 12.

Neasham has aspirations of getting Wisdom Of Water into a Stradbroke, knowing he would have to race well on the Gold Coast and then most likely win a ticket into the Stradbroke through a ballot-exempt race.

Prague (left) and Wisdom Of Water during a trackwork session at Randwick. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“He’s obviously got a huge amount of ability and a huge amount of character – I don’t think you would want to play poker against him,” Neasham said.

“His work on Tuesday was as good as I’ve seen him work.

“He’s got his quirks but it will be good to get him back to the Gold Coast where he has won three from four.

“I would like to get him into something like a Stradbroke, I just wonder if ridden a bit more conservatively maybe he can go on and race in one of those better races.”

Neasham indicated Prague, most recently seen finishing fourth behind Kolding in the All Aged Stakes, would be deployed on a two-run Group 1 campaign of the Kingsford-Smith Cup into the Stradbroke.

“I think both of those races are perfect for him, he showed in the All Aged that he is up to weight for age Group 1 and then I think back to handicap conditions will really suit him too,” Neasham said.

Originally published asNeasham assembles winter squad for more Group 1 success

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