Spirit Ridge digs deep to thrill Newnham
The race had gone exactly to script — but then came the moment of truth.
Would Spirit Ridge take the gap or would he settle for another close second placing?
But with jockey Robbie Dolan urging Spirit Ridge between runners, the imported stayer demonstrated his emerging potential to win the Group 3 $160,000 Summer Cup (2000m) at Royal Randwick.
Spirit Ridge’s win capped an outstanding Sydney summer carnival for the Mark Newnham stable that also included Greysful Glamour’s wins in the Listed ATC Cup and the Group 2 Villiers Stakes but the trainer preferred to praise horse and rider for their bravery and determination.
“We discussed before the race if Robbie could give Spirit Ridge a positive ride early, find Greysful Glamour’s back she will take him a long way in the race,’’ Newnham said.
“Then when the gap came Spirit Ridge didn’t hesitate and that was something we wanted to see from him.
“Spirit Ridge had three starts here before today, he was pretty good when Robbie rode him to win the first race, then he has had every chance his last two starts.
“We wanted to see him put his head out when it mattered. He ended up having the perfect run and got the job done. The horse was very good and that was a 10 out of 10 ride by Robbie.’’
Spirit Ridge ($3.60 favourite) fought back after being headed by Best Of Days ($6.50) to win by a head with Black On Gold ($16) nearly a length away third.
The Newnham stable has denied Godolphin’s Best Of Days feature race win in the Villiers Stakes and Summer Cup in successive starts by narrow margins — he was beaten only a long neck in the first leg.
Greysful Glamour ($7) made a game bid to complete a rare Villiers Stakes-Summer Cup double and led for a long way before tiring near the line to run fifth.
Dolan, a former two-time champion Sydney apprentice, conceded “everything went to plan” on Spirit Ridge.
“Mark and the team at home have just primed this lad for this race today but to be honest, he still has a bit of improvement to come,” Dolan said.
“I’ve won on him before and he is definitely bigger and stronger now.
“He’s got everything you want in an import. He’s got plenty of gate speed and he’s got the good attitude as well.
“Hughie Bowman came up beside me on one of Godolphin’s (Best Of Days) but my horse really stuck his head down and won well.
“Spirit Ridge is an exciting horse because he flies the gates, you rarely see a horse that can jump faster than Greysful [Glamour] because she is a machine, and he did.
“He puts himself on pace, switches off and then has a fight at the end.’’
Spirit Ridge is a son of former outstanding English galloper Nathaniel, the sire of dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable, won twice in England before being purchased by Scott Darby of Darby Racing.
Newnham said six-year-old gelding Spirit Ridge, who was having only his 12th race start in the Summer Cup, has a very promising future.
“Spirit Ridge will run a trip, there is so much to like about him,’’ Newnham said.
“I will get through his summer campaign and keep trying to get his rating up.
“I might run him in the Australia Day Cup which is a month away and I could also run him here in the January Cup in a couple of weeks time. At this stage I will have Gone Bye going to that race and probably this guy.’’
Newnham said for his stable to complete the Villiers Stakes-Summer Cup double for Darby Racing with two different horses, Greysful Glamour and Spirit Ridge, was “enormously satisfying.’’
Greysful Glamour had 59kg was trying to set a weight-carrying record for a mare in the Summer Cup — a race that was first run in 1890 — but the task proved just beyond her.
“I feel Greysful Glamour would have loved it (track rating) to be a good three again,’’ Newnham said.
“With the 59kg and slightly affected track she couldn’t quite get that break on them.
“But she has run her heart out and half way up the straight I thought she was still going to win.
“She still held the front until inside the final 100m and then the 6kg difference with Spirit Ridge really kicked in.’’
Newnham said Greysful Glamour will be given 10 days off and then be prepared for the Sydney autumn carnival.