Group 1 winning three year olds Astern, Extreme Choice and Flying Artie headline the nominations for the 2017 Group 1 $1.25m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 11.
Astern is one of four sprinters trainer John O’Shea has nominated for the Goldophin Team for the Newmarket Handicap and claimed his Group 1 trophy with an emphatic win against the three year olds in the Group 1 $1m De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill during the 2016 Sydney Spring Carnival.
O’Shea’s other nominations are the promising Chetwood, Impending and Peacock.
Astern is set to kick off his Autumn Carnival campaign in the Group 1 $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 18 and has pleased jockey James Doyle with a sixth placing in a 1000m barrier trail at Warwick Farm on Monday.
“I was very pleased with him, he relaxed beautifully and travelled through the trial quite well,” Doyle said.
“He quickened nicely toward the end and hit the line quite well, moving great, so we’re really happy with him.”
“He’s a colt with a lot of strength and class, it’s easy to understand why the stable has such an opinion of him.”
The Mick Price pair of Extreme Choice and Flying Artie were both Group 1 winners during the 2016 Melbourne Spring Carnival.
Extreme Choice proved to be one of the star two year olds during his juvenile year with a win in the Group 1 $1.5m Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield during the 2016 Melbourne Autumn Carnival and resumed in the Spring as a three year old to win the weight for age Group 1 $500,000 Moir Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley.
Flying Artie finished second to Extreme Choice in the Blue Diamond Stakes but bounced back in the Spring with a win in the Group 3 $350,000 Catanach’s Jewellers Blue Sapphire Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield followed by a win over Astern in the Group 1 $500,000 Coolmore Stud Stakes over the same course and distance as the Newmarket Handicap.
Melbourne’s leading trainer Darren Weir also has a strong hand among the sixty-six Newmarket Handicap nominations with the stable entering Group 1 winners Black Heart Bart and Flamberge as well as El Divino, Hellbent and Voodoo Lad.
Trainer Robbie Griffiths will be hoping to win back to back Newmarket Handicaps with last year’s winner who beat Black Heart Bart and Chautauqua.
Chautauqua is also nominated again and is one of three entries for Team Hawkes, the othert two being Kaepernick and Star Turn.
The speedy mare Sheidel heads the Linsday Park Team of eleven entries while Chris Waller has only nominated two, Arod and Counterattack.
Warwick Farm trainer Bryce Heys is keen to give Speith another chance to chase a Group 1 victory down the Flemington straight after he was beaten a whisker by Malaguerra when second in the Group 1 $1m Darley Classic (1200m) on the last day of the four day Melbourne Cup Carnival last year.
Trainer Bjorn Baker, who also trains his team out of Warwick Farm, has nominated his Doomben 10,000 winner Music Magnate for the Newmarket Handicap.
The weights for the Newmarket Handicap will be released on Tuesday 28 February while first acceptances will be taken on Tuesday 21 February at 12pm with final acceptances on Wednesday, March 8.