Mark Newnham will let his impressive import Spirit Ridge shoot for Group 1 glory in the autumn after he won back-to-back cup races at Randwick.
The six-year-old was even better yesterday than he was when taking out the Summer Cup (2000m) a fortnight ago and that’s what Newnham needed to see.
“I thought he had more improvement because last start when he won the Summer Cup he was probably only at his top for the last 150m,” Newnham said.
“He was locked away and only got out late.
“The best part of his race was on the line. In the autumn he’ll get up to a 2400m and maybe even the Sydney Cup might be on the agenda.”
Spirit Ridge boasts a regal heritage having been bred by Juddmonte Farm, the breeding arm of Khalid Abdullah of Frankel fame.
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Spirit Ridge is a son of Galileo’s King George winner Nathaniel who has sired more than 400 winners, none of them better than Juddmonte’s own two-time Arc de Triomphe winner, Enable.
On top of that, Spirit Ridge’s dam – Tates Creek – was a mare of the highest order winning Grade One races at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita.
Spirit Ridge won his first race at Catterick in England beating Loveisili who was himself in action at Royal Randwick forty minutes after Newnham’s gelding completed the Summer Cup/January Cup double.
Jockey Robbie Dolan made all the right moves to give him the best possible run in transit.
“It was another peach of a ride from Robbie,” Newnham said.
“As we discussed prior to the race, if we could get that position it would be the ideal spot and, like last start, it all went as expected and he executed well.
“He loves a fight and with the way they ran it they probably turned it into a sprint and he was at his top at the top of the straight but you could see his staying qualities shine late.”
Dolan had the $3.10 favourite stalking the speed set by Wolfe and didn’t let Laure Me In pocket him in when it made a move around him at the 500m.
Once they got into the straight he let his horse’s superior staying ability take over and he didn’t look like losing over the final 200m.
He beat home a brave Wolfe by three quarters of a length with Mr Marathon Man ($26) running above his odds in third.
‘’It was tricky on paper, obviously with Wolfe and Gone Bye drawn on the inside of us, it was going to be fifty-fifty whether I was able to get into a position,’’ Dolan said.
“Thankfully I had a nice horse under me and he jumped out well and brought me into a position himself.
“Jay (Ford) came upside me on the bend and nearly caught me napping on the bend but he is the superior horse in the race and he is going to go onto bigger and better things than that.
‘’He really enjoys himself and that is a big asset for him. He loves his racing, he loves a day out, he pricks his ears everywhere you go and that is a good sign.
“He has got a really good turn of foot for a horse that gets over a bit of ground and I would definitely be looking forward to seeing him get over further.”
Spirit Ridge was quickly inserted as a $51 chance in the Sydney Cup in April and will obviously have to go to another level to claim a major.
“It’s a stronger race these days because it’s worth $2 million and we’re getting more of these horses in it and he’s still improving,” Newnham said.
“His level of improvement from the middle of last year until now has been great and I think he’s got more left in him. He was going away on the line.”
Newnham will take him to the Manion Cup on the way to the Sydney Cup.
“He’ll have a couple of weeks out. He’s a real European stayer who is clean winded and doesn’t take long to come up,” he said.
“Even off a two-week break I might kick him over an 1800m race. He showed today that further than 2000m isn’t going to be an issue.”
AT THE TRACK
PRINCE OFF TO PADDOCK
Pinnacle Prince will not be aimed at this year’s Country Championships but his trainer Brett Cavanough has a plan that could get him to the $1.3 million Kosciuszko (1200m) in the spring.
The Hinchinbrook colt won his second Highway race in as many weeks and Jason Collett said he’d love to ride him in Tamworth’s Country Championships qualifier on March 7.
“He’ll go for a spell,” Cavanough said. “The Country Championships might be coming too quick for him.
“You definitely won’t see him inside the next 21 days.” He’ll come back to racing later in the winter and if he keeps winning he’ll get his shot at the Kosciuszko.
Jason Collett’s winning ride on Pinnacle Prince came at a cost after he was suspended for careless riding when making the winning move to shift out on the horse and cause interference.
As he was waiting to talk to his manager chief steward Marc van Gestel said: “Are you happy to have the charge against you? “Yes, well I’m not really happy about it, but yes,” Collett replied. The hoop got three meetings and will miss next week’s racing.
WINX STAND WORKS UNDERWAY
Here’s the work currently going on to complete the new Winx Stand at Randwick. The facility will be completed in early 2022.
STABLE LIFE ON HOLD FOR FOREIGN WORKERS
While stables are generally always looking for an extra staff member, the pandemic has made it even harder to get workers.
“Usually, at this time of the year you’re inundated with people from the UK on working visas coming over here to get away from their winter,” Newnham said.
It meant Newnham, like many trainers, had to work on Christmas Day.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said.
“We’ve only got one son and he’s 23 so it’s not like we’ve got little kids. My wife and son came to the stables and helped feed the horses then we had a later lunch.”
McEVOY IN NO HURRY TO SACK PAIR
Kerrin McEvoy wasn’t about to give up on Greek Hero and Handspun winning races again soon.
He said Greek Hero, who ran seventh to stablemate Ulysses, needed an easier race.
“I thought he ran fine, I told the connections that he’s finding it hard in Saturday grade to give them a start and win the race.”
I told them to go back to Wednesday grade,” he said.
Handspun just didn’t get a race run to suit.
“I was happy enough. It was a case of the race being run quite quick which had me gassed over the last furlong but I was still happy with the run,” McEvoy said.
CAVANOUGH APPLAUDS RACING NSW
Racing NSW changed the conditions for the Country Championships and Provincial Championships.
Horses that are stable returned for the first time (previously unraced) must have been legitimately under the care of a NSW Country or Provincial trainer by September 1, 2020.
And horses must remain under the care of a NSW Country or Provincial trainer for a period of 12 months after the series Final.
Some trainers don’t like it but Brett Cavanough isn’t one of them.
“When do Racing NSW bring in a rule that’s not good? I think it’s a great rule and you can quote me on that,” Cavanagh said.
The Scone trainer’s son Jack is doing well since a track work fall in July when suffering a bleed to the brain and took Another Sin to the Gold Coast.
“He’s in Toowomba with a couple of horses. He’s not allowed to ride for a year but he’s getting back involved,” Cavanough said.
Follow: Fifteen Aria (on the way up), Subedar (nice return), Brutality (still going well)
Sack: Greek Hero (disappointing), Matowatakpe (struggling)
Ride: Robbie Dolan on Spirit Ridge (ripper)
Quote: “That was a 12 out of 10 ride.” – Mark Newnham to Robbie Dolan after winning the January Cup.