Warwick Farm trainer Joe Pride will be taking a long-term view when Neeson lines up in the Group Two Salinger Stakes at Flemington.
Neeson is having his first start on the straight track course and an impressive showing on Saturday could lead to an assault on Australia’s premier sprint, the Group One Newmarket Handicap on the same 1200-metre track in March.
Pride said the five-year-old hit a campaign peak last start when he won the Group Two Premiere Stakes (1200m) at Randwick a month ago but could go up another level on Saturday.
“I am really pleased with him,” Pride told Radio Sport National.
Neeson won a barrier trial at Warwick Farm two weeks ago which Pride said had brought on the gelding for the Salinger.
“He has taken a good step forward and maintained his fitness,” Pride said.
“I think he is about to reproduce that run or maybe even a little bit better on Saturday which is what would be required.”
Neeson has won eight of his 22 starts and Hugh Bowman will ride him in the Salinger.
Seven of the last 10 Salinger winners have come from NSW and Pride is hopeful the trend will continue.
He said that being new to the straight track was some concern for Neeson, especially as he can’t see a lot of natural pace in the race.
“I couldn’t see a lot of speed and I would love him to follow something being his first time up the straight,” Neeson said.
Neeson is prominent in TAB Sportsbet’s chart on the fourth line of betting at $7.50.
Consistent John Sadler-trained mare Sister Madly is $4 favourite ahead Mid Summer Music ($5.50) and straight track specialist Temple Of Boom ($7).