Trainer Joe Pride believes Sydney sprinter Neeson has the X-factor to win the Group One BTC Cup at Doomben on Saturday.
Pride, who has won seven Group Ones, declared Neeson his favourite horse since he began training 10 years ago.
“Sacred Choice won two Group Ones for me in the Doncaster Mile and Myer Classic and I’ve got no doubt Rain Affair will be the best I’ve ever trained but Neeson is my favourite,” Pride said.
“He’s a very special horse to me. I’ve fallen in love with him.
“He’s not the best horse I’ve trained but it’s not just about racetrack performances.
“Neeson is very athletic and I’d love to see him win the BTC Cup and the Doomben 10,000.”
Pride launched his Group One career when Red Oog won the Doomben 10,000 in 2005, the trainer’s only victory at the elite level in Queensland.
At the time Pride had only been training for three years and credited Red Oog’s victory to champion Hong Kong trainer John Size.
After working for Barry Lockwood and Bruce Johnson as a 21-year-old at Rosehill, Pride spent a further two years with Bill Mitchell at Randwick before working for Size.
When Size moved to Hong Kong he set Pride up with a redundancy package to launch his own training career.
Neeson started his career in Queensland with former Toowoomba trainer Ron Maund before transferring to Pride after three starts.
The son of Mossman has gone on to win seven times for Pride and has performed with distinction at Group level.
Neeson’s form had been inconsistent before Pride changed gear on the four-year-old three starts ago.
He has been beaten less than a length in each of his subsequent runs in the Group Two Challenge Stakes at Rosehill and the Group One T J Smith and Listed Hall Mark Stakes at Randwick.
“His form has been very good since I put blinkers on him three starts ago and put a bit lifter back on,” Pride said.
Pride believes Neeson’s nine barrier is deal in the BTC Cup (1200m).
“He’s not as good off an inside barrier and nine should be perfect for him,” he said.
“There’s a lot of pace around him which will suit.
“I expect him to be running about third or fourth and the only negative I’ve got is I’d like a softer track.
“The day he won the Premiere Stakes at Randwick last year he beat three subsequent Group One winners.
“I think he’s right up to winning a Group One like this on Saturday.”
Pride rates Buffering as the hardest to beat but believes the Queenslander could bring about his own downfall from his wide draw in 14.
“Neeson and Buffering are proven weight-for-age performers and Buffering looks our biggest danger,” Pride said.
“I’m hoping Buffering goes out hard and uses up all his petrol.”