Joe Pride was a relieved trainer as Neeson bounced back to form with victory in Saturday’s Group Two Premiere Stakes at Randwick.
Pride has been very outspoken about the talents of Neeson but the gelding had failed to live up to expectations in four previous starts this campaign.
The Warwick Farm trainer elected to drop Neeson ($8.50) back to 1200m on Saturday after he was run down in the Cameron Handicap (1500m) last start, and it proved a masterstroke as the five-year-old exploded in the straight to defeat Hurtle Myrtle ($17) by 2-1/2 lengths with half a length to favourite Love Conquers All ($1.90) in third.
“He’s back,” Pride said.
“It’s just a relief. I’ve been way too outspoken with this horse, he’s like my second son.
“I’m just so happy to see him get over the line today. I said after he got beat the other day that I’d never fall in love with another horse, you can get a bit close to them, but I’m just happy to see him today do what he shows me at home.
“I’ve said a lot of times I think he’s the best athlete I’ve ever trained but he’s not the best racehorse. But hopefully we can make it into that next category now.”
Neeson settled third in the run behind leaders Lucha Libre and Winter King with Love Conquers All midfield on the fence in the seven-horse weight-for-age field.
Michael Rodd, who was having his first ride on Neeson, peeled the son of Mossman off the leaders’ backs on straightening and topping the rise he produced the turn of speed that has been lacking so far this preparation to sweep past Winter King.
Neeson held his advantage to the line as Hurtle Myrtle ran on in an encouraging return.
“When I straightened him up I gave him a squeeze and he kicked away from them. He gave me the feel of a Group One horse,” Rodd said.
Pride said Neeson’s return to form had booked him a trip to Melbourne for some of the spring riches.
Love Conquers All “raced like he wants further”, according to jockey Jim Cassidy, while trainer Matthew Smith was delighted with Hurtle Myrtle’s return.
Hurtle Myrtle will run in the Tristarc Stakes and then the Group One Myer Classic.
“She’s come back well and she’ll go to Melbourne now and give it a shake down there,” Smith said.