Steve Moran

What odds lightning striking twice and the first three from the 18 February Lightning Stakes occupying the same spots in today’s Newmarket Handicap?

It’s not without precedent. In 2012, Black Caviar (Bel Esprit) beat Hay List (Statue Of Liberty), Buffering (Mossman) and Foxwedge (Fastnet Rock) (in that order) in the Lightning and then, in the mare’s absence, that trio trifectaed the Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m).

In 2014, Lankan Rupee (Redoute’s Choice) beat Spirit Of Boom (Sequalo) and Knoydart (More Than Ready) in the Oakleigh Plate (Gr 1, 1100m) and they then finished in the same order at Flemington. Lankan Rupee, of course, won again and by a greater margin despite the handicap conditions swinging 1.5 kilograms in the favour of the placegetters.

There are several examples of the handicap weight conditions proving significant in the Newmarket, notably with the past two three-year-old winners Brazen Beau (I Am Invincible) and Shamexpress (O’Reilly), but just as many (cases) where the weights have not determined the outcome.

Weight, of course, is just one factor and that advantage is rendered negligible if you happen to be in the wrong part of the track or strike interference. The intensity of the race, the track pattern and – naturally – ability will likely decide this year’s Newmarket.

Unfortunately, the Flemington track map (which we spoke of last week) was not available at the time of the writing. You can try to access it this morning. Just google Flemington track report.

So, we’re a little in the dark but with Terravista drawn 12 and Spieth in one we probably have all bases covered and my strategy will be to back both horses to win (which we can well do at the available odds).

Quite simply, Terravista and Spieth clearly turned in the two best performances in the Lightning Stakes (Gr 1, 1000m) especially as you consider the tempo was modest for the class of race.

I can entertain Star Turn and Extreme Choice (Not A Single Doubt) as genuine contenders given that the spring Coolmore Stud Stakes (registered as Ascot Vale Stakes) (Gr 1, 1200m) form has been a better pointer to the Newmarket, at the same course and distance, than to the Lightning.

The past four three-year-old winners of the Newmarket had contested the Coolmore and all, bar Weekend Hussler (Hussonet), were way down in the weights. They were – Brazen Beau with 52 kg (won Coolmore);  Shamexpress, 50.5 kilograms (third); Wanted (Fastnet Rock), 51.5 kilograms (7th) and Weekend Hussler, 56 kilograms (won).

Most punters will indeed be promoting the two three-year-olds should the track map, or more significantly the outcome of earlier races, suggest that middle to outside is best in the straight.

The Newmarket winner’s profile has been quite clear in recent years. It’s either been a three-year-old or an established top class sprinter high in the weights, reflecting their obvious quality.

The Quarterback (Street Boss), who won with 52 kilograms last year, is the only recent exception as he became the first horse older than three to carry less than 56 kilograms to victory since the mare Belle Du Jour (Dehere) (52.5 kilograms) scored in 2003.

 

STRATEGIES:
The Newmarket: Back Terravista and Spieth. Trifecta 1,2 to win from 1,2,6,7,8,9. Box trifecta 1,2,6,9.

Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m): Ecuador (High Chaparral) is crazy odds. Yes, he jumps from 1400 metres but Zipping (Danehill) and Saintly (Sky Chase) managed to do this and several Australian Cup winners have jumped from 1600 metres. The pressure might be on here and this could take the box trifecta 4,5,6,10,11 and the box quinella 6,10,11.

Matron Stakes (Schweppervescence Trophy) (Gr 3, 1600m): History says the winner down in the weights. Happy to be on Circular (Street Cry) if inside and on-pace looks the recipe; if they can run on out wide then more inclined to Pure Pride (Shocking). Box trifecta 9,14,15,16.

Kewney Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m): The class of I Am A Star (I Am Invincible) should prevail but she’s short enough.

My Kitchen Rules Handicap: Keen on the race with two key winning chances Red Alto (High Chaparral) and Hursley (Makfi). Trifecta 9,10 to win from 1,5,9,10,11,12.

 

SYDNEY:
Phar Lap Stakes (Gr 2, 1500m): The Michael Kent-trained Comic Set (Reset) is definitely up to this and backable odds. Kent won this race last year with Hattori Hanzo (Sebring)  and, in 2011, with Blackie (Black Minnaloushe). Comic Set won the same lead-up race as Hattori Hanzo.

Coolmore Classic (Gr 1, 1500m): Omei Sword (High Chaparral) is probably the best three-year-old filly in the country. We find out today. The fillies by no means have any sort of mortgage on the race. Well performed older mares, down in the weights, is the general profile of the Coolmore winner. Euro Angel (Rip Van Winkle), Zanbagh (Bernardini) and Abbey Marie (Redoute’s Choice) attract interest at odds. This and the Newmarket are the two races I’m most looking forward to today.