Rob Neocleous has an opportunity to win his first group race of his 40 year training career when Neo Cleo steps out in tomorrow night’s group 2 McKenna Memorial.
Neo Cleo enters the final as the fastest winner of last week’s heats and is currently rated a $4.40 chance with tab.com.au.
“She ran the fastest first split and fastest overall time. She’s going really well at the moment,” Neocleous told RSN’s Talking Greyhounds.
He says success in a race of this calibre would be “right up there” in the most memorable wins of his career.
“I’ve made a lot of group finals over the years but I’ve never actually cracked one. Numerous country cups but haven’t won one yet, so I’d be over the moon if she was to get up.”
Although the accelerated excitement and build up that comes along with being in a group final, Neocleous says nothing changes at home with routines to remain as normal.
“It’s always a buzz when you make a group final, but nothing changes in terms of our routine during the week.”
Neo Cleo announced herself on the mid-distance scene when she ran 34.09 in her debut over the trip in December. Since then Neocleous has mixed her distances where we’ve seen her adapt well and be one of the sport’s most versatile chasers.
“She’s got that much ability, if she can get out on the lure she can really run, as we saw last Thursday night. There’s not a lot of dogs who break 34 seconds at Sandown and that’s what she’s done. She’s a pretty special girl to me.”
She is bred, owned and trained by Neocleous in partnership with his wife Wendy. Neo Cleo hails from a litter of five who have all won at Sandown Park.
“A couple of them are above average and the other three hold their own. They’ve all won at Sandown so I couldn’t be happier with the way they’re all going.”
Neo Cleo will jump from box 3 in Thursday night’s $40,000 to-the-winner final.
“It’s a strong field. I think any one of the eight can win. Tornado Tears is a freak and the Thompson team have a couple of smart ones in there as well. I hope she can begin the way she did last week and get out in front.”
Neo Cleo and Van Ann are the only two girls in Thursday’s final. Females have taken out six of the last eight editions of the event.
This is the 48th running of the McKenna Memorial. It was first run in 1971 making this one of our longest running features. It was run over the staying trip until 2010 and has been over 595m since. It’s named after the club’s first secretary, Jack McKenna.