The past 5 3YO winners of the Newmarket all contested either the Lightning Stakes or the Oakleigh Plate as a lead-in run. The Aaron Purcell trained colt did not contest either of those however Merchant Navy does have in his favour a win in the Coolmore Stud Stakes down the Flemington ‘straight six’. Victory will see the colt join Brazen Beau and Weekend Hussler who were both able to complete the Coolmore/Newmarket double. A winner of 5 of 7, the Fastnet Rock colt returned in the G2 Rubiton at Caulfield over 1100m when charging late to get within a half-length of the winner Super Cash. Expected to be ridden similar to his Coolmore win when charging home late, the extra 100m after his first-up run looks ideal. Dropping to 52kg, he looks well-in historically against previous 3YO winners and with the light weight, Hong Kong based Chad Schofield will replace Mark Zahra.
Darren Weir will be looking to produce a training masterstroke, dropping Brave Smash back from his last start win in the 1400m G1 Futurity at Caulfield. Craig Williams had the 5YO entire on the speed and when given his cue was too good to score a three-quarter length victory. His first 5 Australian starts were all at 1200m before stepping up to the 7 furlong trip for the Orr and Futurity. He will be fourth-up this prep, the same as he was when tackling the Everest when he produced one of his best performances since arriving from Japan when attacking the line strongly to be a one length 3rd behind Redzel. With the Flemington straight six sometimes compared to 1400m trip, Brave Smash will be looking to mix the speed with his stamina at his first race visit to Flemington and comes with the 1200m figures of 6: 1-2-1. He looks well in at the 56.5kg.
The English import broke a long-standing historical trend last year history in becoming the first horse in over a century to win the 1200m Newmarket Handicap when first-up, sprinting clear over the final stages to score a two length victory. He will need to break some more historical trends to be successful in 2018. Only 4 horses have won the race in successive years, the last being Razor Sharp in 1982/83, while just 3 horses have carried greater than 57kg to victory in the past 35 years. The Hayes/Dabernig trained chestnut has shown a love of Flemington and in particular the straight course. Take out his seven length defeat in the Darley Classic which followed a torrid run in the Everest, the 7YO has won his other 3 appearances down the famous Flemington straight. A revelation since being targeted at the Sprint trip, the big chestnut will look to become the first since Black Caviar to secure the Lightning Stakes/Newmarket double.
It was the story of the Spring when Rich Charm was able to win the G2 Linlithgow Stakes on Derby Day for trainer Udyta Clark and if the 5YO can claim the Newmarket, it may well be the biggest story in racing this year. Carrying 54kg to win the Linlithgow, Rich Charm came with a perfect closing challenge to loom up to the leaders and go on to a one length victory. Sent for a break he resumed in the Rubiton at Caulfield with 57.5kg and settling at the rear of the field was unable to get any clean air until the race was gone. When finding a small gap at the 75m, he changed gears and attacked the line strongly to finish 1.5 lengths in arrears of the winner Super Cash. With 3 wins at Flemington and 2 wins from 2 trips down the ‘straight six’, he will meet Merchant Navy 1.5kg better than the Rubiton.
The time honoured Group 1 Newmarket Handicap is the only G1 sprint over 1200m on the Australian turf calendar held under open handicap conditions. The race was first held in 1874 as a Principal race and in 1979 was granted Group 1 Status.
The 6 furlong dash down the Flemington straight, is the ‘Grand Final’ of the 3 big sprint races of the Melbourne Autumn. The Autumn sprint triple crown incorporates the Lightning Stakes at 1000m, Oakleigh Plate at 1100m and culminates with the Newmarket Handicap at 1200m.
Total prizemoney on offer in 2018 is $1.25m with the winner to receive $750,000. The 2017 winner was the Hayes/Dabernig trained Redkirk Warrior, ridden by Regan Bayliss. Other past winners include Black Caviar, Weekend Hussler, Miss Andretti, Takeover Target, Schillaci and Placid Ark. While from the history books, other winners have been Wakeful, Gothic, Auries Star and Ajax..
Odds and previews are available for all the major Autumn Racing Carnival races at UBET's Autumn Racing Betting Hub.
|Date:||Saturday 10th March 2018|
|Race Time:||15:55 AEDT|
|Race Type:||Open Handicap|
|2017 Winner:||Redkirk Warrior|
|2018 Newmarket Handicap Odds|