Lindsay Park’s Flemington specialist and upset Black Caviar Lightning winner Redkirk Warrior has work to do to continue his winning streak on the weekend coming up with the outside barrier 15 draw in the official Newmarket Handicap 2018 field on Super Saturday.
Racing Victoria received 15 final acceptances for this year’s Group 1 $1.5 million Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m).
If all the confirmed sprinters make it to race day, it will be the largest Newmarket Handicap field lining-up in the autumn classic since Hay List defeated 21 rivals in 2012.
Dominating the Newmarket Handicap final acceptances numbers-wise with five runners is the David Hayes-led Lindsay Park stable whose contingent is led by the reigning champion Redkirk Warrior.
Last Melbourne Festival of Racing the Hong Kong expat made history as the first Newmarket Handicap winner to salute first-up in a century.
This season the now seven-year-old son of Notnowcato returns looking to go back-to-back for the first time since Razor Sharp (1982-83).
Redkirk Warrior carried 52.5kg to his two length victory as a $31 roughie in betting 12 months ago but gives the weight away for the title defence carrying top kilos of 57.5kg.
Only two horses since 2009 have carried more than 57kg to victory in the Newmarket Handicap with the mighty Black Caviar (58kg in 2011) and the aforementioned Hay List (58.5kg in 2012).
A noted fresh performer, Redkirk Warrior comes into the race on Saturday on the back of a narrow upset win over Redzel in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) from February 17.
Regan Bayliss retains the ride this weekend with his mount looking to do the Lightning Stakes – Newmarket Handicap double for the first time since the former’s now namesake Black Caviar seven years ago.
Along with the top weight, Redkirk Warrior must also overcome the nasty barrier with the last winner to jump from wider than barrier 14 being Belle Du Jour (18 of 21) in 2003.
The other Lindsay Park-trained runners in the race are: CF Orr Stakes fourth placed Snitzel four-year-old Thronum (7), returning European import Fastnet Tempest (10), So Si Bon (12) and last year’s Blue Diamond winning filly Catchy (9) all carrying 52.5kg or under.
Along with Catchy the other three-year-old filly in the mix is the local Mathew Ellerton & Simon Zahra-trained Booker drawn in barrier three and on the 50kg minimum with apprentice Ben Thompson riding.
Alinghi (2005) was the last filly to win the Newmarket Handicap and this year Booker has had the benefit of two lead-up runs.
She took out Caulfield’s Group 3 Kevin Hayes Stakes (1200m) first-up before her close fourth just a quarter-length beaten in a blanket finish behind Russian Revolution on Blue Diamond Day in the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m).
Along with Redkirk Warrior the other standout last start winner in the mix is the Darren Weir-trained Brave Smash in barrier two with Craig Williams engaged to ride the Tosen Phantom entire.
The former Japanese galloper improved on his CF Orr Stakes third winning the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) a fortnight back and now drops back in distance for the Newmarket Handicap.
The other best in Newmarket Handicap betting along with Redkirk Warrior meanwhile is the Aaron Purcell-trained Fastnet Rock colt Merchant Navy.
The consistent three-year-old won the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at the track and distance last Melbourne Cup Carnival before a first-up third on February 10 in the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes (1100m).