The Newmarket Handicap is the premier handicap sprint on the Australian thoroughbred calendar and it has thrown up a tantalising contest. Multiple Group 1 winners, a couple of flying fillies carrying featherweights and some pretty handy handicappers in the middle. A fascinating race, and just one of the highlights on a great Super Saturday card.
Looking for three wins in a row is Darryl Frenc, @winningpunter1. You can find more of his work at winningpunter.org.
Lexus Newmarket Handicap
AU$1.25m, Group 1, 1200m
Flemington, Saturday 1515 local, 0415 GMT
A lot of the time, races run down the straight tend to be run at a slower pace, this allows horses to travel within their comfort zone and sprint better. This is in my opinion why we see horses who seem to excel down the straight. It’s not that they love not running around the bend although I would say that plays a part but mainly because we see less genuinely run races. On raw times Redzel was only a length above benchmark for the first 600m in the Lightning Stakes. Horses that tend to be advantaged down the straight are the ones with the best sprints because down the straight more often than around the bend they actually get the chance to use their sprints.
Where does that leave us here? Thronum and Lord Of The Sky will go forward with Booker not far away. I think we will see just a slightly above benchmark pace. Thronum will try and do what Redkirk Warrior did last year and go forward and steal the race. There’s likely to be only a few lengths separating first and last every horse will get a chance.
It’s an extremely open race. I have Merchant Navy and Rich Charm on top. Redkirk Warrior next due to his tendency to regress deeper into his prep.
Redkirk Warrior - Best horse in the race and current Newmarket winner trying to go back to back. This is now his fourth prep in Australia. In his first prep, we saw him marginally improve on his first-up run when second up. In his two preps since he has won first up and not gone near that rating again the rest of the prep. 1000m first up and ran to a new PB running slashing sectionals to run down Redzel, best late splits of the day. If he ran those figures again he’d be winning. His pattern though is to regress off his first-up runs. That’s why I will just be backing him to save my bet or for a small win depending on his price.
Brave Smash - Big result for us in the Futurity. I just don’t understand why they want to drop back to a 1200m handicap. Obviously, they want a 1200m G1 on his resume but winning this race will be a big ask. Has shown that he can compete with the best in Australia over 1200m and he has a huge sprint. Weights in racing are over-rated but the Newmarket has a tendency to be won by horses down the order. He’ll run well but I think he’ll find a couple better.
Lord Of The Sky - Solid enough first up with favours on his side and flattered by the slow tempo in the C.F Orr. Has no run of substance this prep and I will be against it.
Rich Charm - What a story it would be if Udyta Clarke got a Group 1 win. She’s got the horse to do it in my opinion. Drawing inside broke its chances of winning first up. Would’ve won had he gotten to the outside. Strongest through the line of all runners. Had a better late race exertion than Merchant Navy just couldn’t travel mid-race. Back to the Flemington straight suits. He hasn’t been missed by the market and hopefully, we can get a better price come race start.
Rock Magic - He’ll be in the first half of the field crossing the post he just lacks the finish to win down the straight.
Supido - Drawn well. He isn’t a Group 1 WFA sprinter but he can mix it with them in a handicap. Ran well last start with the second best mid and late race exertion but just wasn’t good enough to beat Redzel and Redkirk Warrior home. Gets a big drop in weight. The thing that sets him apart is that his peak rating is at 1200m when running third to Black Heart Bart in the Goodwood. This will be his first run at 1200m since then. He’s a good price and has a bit of X-factor about him. No weight and drawn similar to last start. Keen to make him a big winning result.
Thronum - Has run to a new peak at each start this prep. Zahra to Dee is a big negative jockey change. Will need a great ride to lead this field and win and don’t think Dee is the jockey for that. Probably a bit one-paced to win. Will need to run to a big new peak to win.
Fastnet Tempest - Trialed well but is looking for further.
Ken’s Dream - Horse is airborne. Raced the same day as the Lighting against Benchmarks he was home best late race exertion of the day. He had the third best last 800m of the day, the best last 600 and last 400 of the day and second best last 200 of the day. The best last 200 of the day was Redkirk Warrior but Ken’s Dream had him covered for the last 600 and 400m. It was a huge effort and you have to keep in mind that Ken’s Dream was over 1200m compared to Redkirk Warrior who was only over 1000m. He drops to 52kg off that effort, he loves the straight. Drawn 8 he can sit right behind Thronum. Great chance at huge odds.
Lucky Liberty - Came out of the same race as Ken’s Dream and ran similar figures. Lucky Liberty travelled two lengths slower than Ken’s Dream to the 200m and going into a Group 1 he needs to be closer in the run. One at bolters odds for fourth.
Merchant Navy - Could be a star. He hasn’t run in too many races with solid early pace and overall time. He had been relying on his big sprint. He got found out in the Golden Rose. We backed him in the Coolmore at big odds with blinkers on the first time and he unleashed a big sprint down the straight. He didn’t have the SP on his side and he made his run in the fast lane. A lot of that win was due to Mark Zahra. He jumped from barrier 15 of 20 yet Zahra got to the other side of the track looking for his fast lane and won on the fence. He was solid first up. Best last 600m and second best last 200m against the benchmark of the entire day. He didn’t get the best run in transit but he did get a better run than Rich Charm. Zahra to Schofield a negative in my opinion. He could be a star but there are enough negatives in his short quote for me to take him on.
Missrock - Horrible second up record. Has had her chances and not been good enough. Could run a place with even luck but couldn’t take her to win.
So Si Bon - Stable change. Trial wasn’t great. If he comes out first up for the new stable and wins good on him and I’ll cop it on the chin but I can’t back him.
Booker - Big run first up and then big run again in The Oakleigh. I’ll be waiting for her to get to 1400m before backing her. I think there is a win against the older mares in her this prep. This is a bridge too far over 1200m.
Catchy - Would need significant improvement to beat this lot down the straight. Better suited third and fourth up out to 1400-1600m
I’ll be taking a few in this. We will be in profit to varying degrees if any runner should win.
Redkirk Warrior - 0.5 Units
Rich Charm - 0.6 Units
Supido - 0.4 Units
Ken’s Dream - 0.3 Units