Sky High’s not the limit for Spirit Ridge on steep climb to glory
Mark Newnham has always had an eye on the Sydney Cup since Spirit Ridge arrived in Australia, and the Sky High Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday will be the next step on the steep climb to the group 1 at The Championships.
The six-year-old son of Nathaniel progressed from benchmark grade to group 3 winner in the summer, but Newnham was mindful that there were bigger challenges to come in the autumn.
Spirit Ridge lines up in the Sky High Stakes over 2000m against Golden Eagle winner Colette, who has proven herself in weight-for-age company by winning the Apollo Stakes and being runner-up in the Chipping Norton Stakes this time in.
She is a deserved $1.65 favourite in front of Caulfield Cup placegetter The Chosen One at $6, with Sprit Ridge respected at $8.
“The end game is the Sydney Cup for him, but we find out a bit more on Saturday,” Newnham said. “He has never run poorly in a race since coming out here and, as we have raised the bar, he has gone up with it.″
Spirit Ridge won the Summer Cup and January Cup over 2000m and carries residual fitness.
“He has had two runs at a suitable trip for him and won them both, and won them well, albeit with light weights,” Newnham said. “You can just see the improvement and confidence he has got out of those wins.
“I think he is a stayer, but I wanted to keep something in the bank to have a shot at the autumn.
“It is another step up on the weekend, but I think he is up to it.″
Newnham continues to rise through the training ranks with 33 metropolitan wins for the season and has the best strike-rate of the top dozen trainers. He is getting more opportunities and never seems in a rush with his stock, so jumping The Irishman from a Warwick Farm mid-week to the group 2 Phar Lap Stakes on Saturday suggests former Kiwi has talent.
“He was bought by the agent for Edmund Lee, who owned Shadow Hero, out of New Zealand and he rang me and said ‘we’ve got a nice horse, would you train him’,” Newnham said.
The Irishman, which holds entries for the Doncaster and Australian Derby, was a runner-up at Listed level before coming over to Australia and winning off a nine-week break on March 3.
“It is not ideal going 10 days out from that race but he pulled up very well,” Newnham said.