Newnham In High Spirits About Stayer's Spring Goals
Trainer Mark Newnham has designs on the Group 1 Metropolitan with talented stayer Spirit Ridge and hopes he can open his spring with another Group 3 win at Kembla Grange on Saturday.
The import has quickly proven himself to be a reliable conveyance and Newnham said there are parallels between his condition heading into the Group 3 $160,000 The Agency Illawarra Premier’s Cup (2000m) and his autumn kick off back in March.
On that occasion he was beaten in the shadows of the post by Toffee Tongue in the Sky High Stakes over 2000m.
“I’d say he is in very similar condition to when he ran in the Sky High,’’ Newnham said.
“That day he probably paraded a bit warm and a touch soft and it was only in the last couple of strides Toffee Tongue beat him. Then he ran very well in the Tancred so it doesn’t take very long to get him to his top.
“He only had a brief let up in Queensland, a couple of weeks in the paddock and a couple on the treadmill so he’s coming off a very similar preparation.”
Spirit Ridge, $8.50 with TAB on Thursday, won the Group 3 Premier’s Cup (2400m) in Brisbane in May then finished midfield behind Zaaki in the Q22.
He’s shown sharpness in winning his two barrier trials over 1200m this month and Newnham said even though he’s not proven on a wet track in Australia yet he sees no reason why the seven-year-old won’t fire.
“I haven’t had him on anything worse than a soft 5 but he’s just a reliable animal,’’ he said.
“I’m not too bothered with whatever gets thrown up on Saturday.
“For a big horse and a horse that gets out over ground he leaves the gates really quickly. I would say Inverloch would probably be the leader of the race and if he could find his way outside him it would be a good enough position.”
Either the Group 3 Newcastle Gold Cup (2300m) on September 17 or the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) a day later will be Spirit Ridge’s path to the Metropolitan on October 3.
Newnham isn’t game enough to predict what Sixgun will produce in the ATC’s Most Winning Owner Godolphin Handicap (1000m) but says the right set up is there for the enigmatic sprinter to perform.
The four-year-old won at Randwick over the short course four weeks ago then finished a game third behind Destination over 1100m on the back up a week later.
“He can be frustrating but if anything the drop to the 1000m is a bonus for him. There’s less time for him to make mistakes,’’ Newnham said.
“He’s quite a headstrong horse that needs things to go right for him.
“They didn’t go overly quickly for 1100m and he was drawn wide and he over raced. He still did a good job to bat away and run third.
“He’s got a draw where he should get a nice bit of cover then the rest is up to him.”
It’s been a long time coming for the return of Celestial Falls but she’s back on track, having missed a full season with a tendon injury, in the Peltzer Special Achievement Handicap (1500m).
Now five, she’s had three trials to prepare for a first-up run and Newnham said realistically she will need it.
“Her work has been good with improvement to come, she’s well and sound and it’s a nice race to start her off in,’’ he said.
“She gets blinkers back on which she didn’t wear in the trials. She’ll run a good race but it’d be optimistic to think she would be winning first time up on wet ground for over 12 months.”