Milestone for Baker

It’s most appropriate Cambridge trainer Murray Baker celebrated his 1000th training success yesterday in New Zealand with Neo.

Neo became Baker’s third Wellington Guineas winner, following on from Ambitious Owner in 2004 and Rios in 2007, when he proved too strong for his rivals in the Group II NZ Bloodstock-sponsored 1600-metre feature. And on hand to watch the One Cool Cat gelding beat Zinko and Batman were his Brisbane-based owners, Glen and Lisa Morton.

Glen Morton is a son of Billie Morton, who has had a long and successful association with the Baker stable. In fact two of Morton’s horses, Prized Gem and Nom du Jeu are among Baker’s Group One winners. Prized Gem won the Brisbane Cup and Kelt Capital Stakes and her son Nom du Jeu took the AJC Derby.

Neo has shown promise from the outset, being an unlucky third on debut at Tauranga then winning at Awapuni before earning his Wellington Guineas start with a brave second to Warhorse at Ellerslie.

Baker’s training partner, Andrew Forsman, was on hand at Trentham and was thrilled for his boss to record his 1000th win in a Group race.

Neo’s effort sealed a trip to Riccarton for the Group I $300,000 Sothy’s NZ 2000 Guineas on November 17.

While thrilled with Neo’s success, Baker was facing the Australian media after (It’s A) Dundeel was beaten for the first time in the Group II Mitchelton Wines Vase at Moonee Valley,

Punters expected Dundeel to maintain his unbeaten record, but it was the Mark Kavanagh-trained Super Cool who took the honours, ending Dundeel’s winning sequence.

But Baker was philosophical after the defeat and warned punters the horse would be ready to show his best in his main assignment, the Group I VRC Derby next weekend.

It was always a worry running Dundeel around the tight Moonee Valley track and it seemed the circuit did prove his downfall, though he fought right to the line.

“He just raced a little dour,” said Baker. “He should improve. We’ve been a bit easy on him.”

Dundeel was ridden as usual by James McDonald, who also believed the Moonee Valley track was partly responsible for the defeat. “He was almost beaten at Canterbury, almost beaten at Wyong and he’s won really well on two big tracks,” said McDonald. “If any track was going to bring him undone it was going to be the Valley.”