The Newmarket Handicap is arguably the most prestigious Group 1 sprint on the Australian racing calendar and we are set for a typically fascinating edition of the race at Flemington on Saturday.
Three-year-olds have an excellent record in the Newmarket Handicap and it is Merchant Navy that is currently on top of our 2018 Newmarket Handicap betting market, but he will face some extremely tough competition in the form of Redkirk Warrior, Brave Smash and Booker.
We have analysed all 15 horses set to contest the Group 1 event and our complete 2018 Newmarket Handicap tips can be found below!
Redkirk Warrior made history when he won the Newmarket Handicap first-up last year and he will make more history if he wins the race again in 2018 – no horse has won the Newmarket Handicap in back-to-back years since Razor Sharp in 1984. Redkirk Warrior could hardly have been more impressive when he savaged the line to win the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes first-up and a repeat of that effort would have him right in the finish. The question mark is the fact that his second-up record in Australia is poor and all of his best form has come fresh. There is no doubt that he goes into this race as a leading contender, but I can’t get him as short as his current price.
Brave Smash heads into the Newmarket Handicap on the back of a maiden Group 1 victory in the Futurity Stakes at Caulfield. He drops back to 1200 metres for the Newmarket Handicap, but that really shouldn’t be a problem and it should not be forgotten that he finished third in The Everest in the Spring. The issue for Brave Smash could be how he handles the Flemington straight. He is a slightly quirky horse and I do have my concerns over how he will deal with straight racing – especially if they go slow. His best form is right up to this race, but he is another horse that looks to have found his right price.
Lord Of The Sky
Lord Of The Sky finished at the tail of the field in the Futurity Stakes and he is a horse that generally goes backwards the further that he gets into his preparation. He is the extreme outside of the field for a reason.
Rich Charm has an ideal profile for a Newmarket Handicap horse. He stamped himself as a horse capable of performing at this level with two strong wins during the Spring and he had no luck when he finished fourth in the Rubiton Stakes. The Danerich gelding was beaten home by Merchant Navy in that race and I’m not sure that he has the same level of upside as the three-year-old.
Rock Magic produced a typical performance in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes – he was thereabouts and earnt plenty of money for connections, but never really look like a winning chance. I expect that we will see a very similar effort in the Newmarket Handicap.
There was plenty to like about his first-up effort when he hit the line strongly to finish fourth in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes. A repeat of that performance would have him in the mix, but he is another horse that generally produces his best form fresh and it would not surprise to see him regress second-up.
Thronum has been excellent this campaign. He led from start to finish in the Australia Stakes and he was very gallant when fourth in the Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes at Caulfield. I like the fact that the Lindsay Park team have freshened him up for this race and he is another horse that has an excellent profile for the Newmarket Handicap. The question with Thronum is whether he can perform at the level required to win a Newmarket Handicap without getting a soft lead and I am not convinced.
Fastnet Tempest is a horse with upside that performed well during the Spring, but this is a big step-up in class and he has never shown anything to suggest that he is capable of winning at this level.
Ken’s Dream has an excellent record down the Flemington straight, but he really didn’t beat much in his two wins at Flemington this campaign. He would need to go to another level to be any chance.
Lucky Liberty ran well behind Ken’s Dream at Flemington last start, but I couldn’t possibly have him in a Group 1 race of this quality.
Merchant Navy is the horse to beat in the 2018 Newmarket Handicap. He has recorded two wins from as many starts down the famous Flemington straight and his win in the Coolmore Stud Stakes was nothing short of outstanding. Merchant Navy was clearly underdone in the Rubiton Stakes first-up, but he was still able to hit the line very strongly for a nice third and he will be better suited up to 1200 metres. He has an explosive turn-of-foot and he can finish over the top of his rivals late to cement himself as one of the best sprinters in the country.
Missrock produced a career best performance to finished third behind Redkirk Warrior and Redzel in the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes. Unfortunately, her second-up record is awful and all her best form generally comes first-up.
So Si Bon
So Si Bon is the x-factor in the Newmarket Handicap field. He has always had plenty of talent, but has been set some very tough tasks by old trainer Robbie Laing. He is now with the Lindsay Park team and they have identified him as a sprinter. It is impossible to back a horse that has recorded just one race win from 20 starts, but it would not surprise if he produced a better effort than his odds suggest.
Booker goes into the Newmarket Handicap as a genuine contender. She beat a strong group of fillies to win the Kevin Hayes Stakes first-up and she was a huge run in the Ladbrokes Oakleigh Plate. She made up plenty of ground late – despite being caught in the worst part of the track. I don’t think that she is as good as Merchant Navy, but I would be surprised if she finished outside the placings.
Catchy’s run in the Ladbrokes Oakleigh Plate was better than it looked on paper and she was able to make-up a fair amount of ground late. She won the Danehill Stakes in impressive fashion over this track and distance in the Spring and she seems to have snuck under the radar heading into the Newmarket Handicap. There is genuine value at her current price of $14.