FLEMINGTON PREVIEW March 6, 2010 NEWMARKET HANDICAP (1200M) Race 6, 2.35pm (Melbourne time) The standing of the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap as Australia’s premier sprint race hasn’t been diminished in any way by the wonderful field of sprinters assembled at Flemington on Saturday. Nineteen quality sprinters line up for the 1200m dash down the famous Flemington straight and it is impossible to label any horse without a winning chance – even the grand old campaigner El Segundo is in with a shot at long odds. At the start of the autumn carnival we expected Australia’s bumper and exciting crop of outstanding 3YO sprinters to dominate the open age sprints, but it wasn’t until Starspangledbanner won the G1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield two weeks ago that a 3YO chalked one up on the slate. The older sprinters Nicconi and Turffontein had won the first two legs of the Melbourne sprint “quaddy” by winning the G1 Lightning Stakes (1000m, Flemington) and the G1 William Reid Stakes (1200m, Moonee Valley). Starspangledbanner, Nicconi and Turffontein clash in the Newmarket, with the first two heading to Royal Ascot after their Flemington assignment. Three-year-olds have a wonderful record in this great race – 43 3YOs have won since the race was first run in 1874 and won by the 3YO filly Maid Of Avenel. Twenty-eight of those 3YOs were colts and geldings (15 fillies). For Starspangledbanner the good news is that the last three horses (of 10) to complete the Oakleigh PlateNewmarket double were 3YOs, the
SPEED MAP Predicted positions on settling
magnificent trio of Weekend Hussler (2008), Schillaci (1992) and Placid Ark (1991). This Newmarket is a very different race in that I don’t see another horse apart from Starspangledbanner setting the tempo. The other 18 starts all prefer to race behind the speed, and there is a large chunk of this field that will be ridden very quietly out the back, such as Trusting, Nicconi, El Segundo and the likely favourite, All Silent. A fitter and more focused Starspangledbanner, after two starts this campaign, will be at his peak and hard to run down. All Silent has the imposing record of four starts at Flemington for four wins – two around the bend in the spring of 2008 and two down the straight last spring. All Silent possesses an awesome turn-of-foot when he gets clear running in the last 300 metres. It won’t matter if he’s six lengths from the lead, if the same All Silent from the spring turns out on Saturday, nothing will beat him. But the Newmarket is a different type of race, obviously, because of its handicap conditions and All Silent will lump the top weight of 57kg, the same weight Takeover Target carried to win in 2006. Nicconi is attempting to be the 12th horse to win the Lightning-Newmarket double. Scenic Blast did it last year and then went to Royal Ascot and won the G1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m). Nicconi is on the same path and just as capable of doing the same. Shellscrape, Turffontein, Eagle Falls, Headway and King Pulse all have claims The tips: All Silent to beat Starspangledbanner, Nicconi, Headway, Shellscrape and Turffontein.
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AND ALSO What a meeting at Flemington! Not even the forecast showers could rain on this Super Saturday parade; and nor should they affect this surface (other than take out a bit of firmness). And Also’s take on the Newmarket is to give Wanted one more chance in the toughest of tough sprints if you want to – $17 looks enticing odds about a colt who is always thereabouts in the best company. The other Group 1s? Why not back this column’s favourite girl, Zarita, again in the Australian Cup? She’s around the $17 mark, too. The only negative is that our favourite rider Steven Arnold preferred Our Aqaleem to her, but that isn ’t necessarily a negative – a heavyweight jockey has more to gain in sticking with a big, Flemington stable; and on his first-up run Our Aqaleem should be worth a nibble at $13, too; and Dwayne Dunn rides Zarita well and is hungry for Group 1 success. The Guineas? Little Lonhro (aka Denman) is all the rage, has been winning with his head on his chest and is more ready for this 1600m test than he was in spring’s Caulfield Guineas. But – actually, And Also can’t get two buts out of its head – Denman is around twos-on, and you know the old saying about betting odds-on and walking backwards down the stairs. One of the ‘buts’, Linton, is backable at $6.50, as is the other, Set For Fame, at $5.50. They, too, are shaping as superstars. Choose one of them, or simply sit back and enjoy the race. Stephen Howell