Lindsay Park head trainer David Hayes believes that gun three year old Merchant Navy is the hardest for his top sprinter Redkirk Warrior to beat in the 2018 Group 1 $1.25m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.
The lightly weighted Merchant Navy has been installed as the $5 favourite at Ladbrokes.com.au in a wide open betting race and even though Hayes thinks the three year old is the one to beat, he still thinks that Redkirk Warrior, who is marked at $7, should be the number one pick in the market order.
“Merchant Navy is the hardest to beat. He was great up the straight but I don’t think he should be favourite. I think Redkirk should be favourite,” Hayes told RSN’s Racing Pulse.
Redkirk Warrior is chasing back to back wins in the Newmarket Handicap but will have to carry the top weight of 57.5kg, up 5kg on last year’s victory.
“They go up in weight for winning. It is a handicap. It is hard to win under the handicap conditions,” Hayes said.
The Lindsay Park Team of David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig have Redkirk Warrior in great form and with the blinkers on for the first time, the big chestnut was able to mow down Redzel and bring his winning run to an end with a nose win over him in the Group 1 $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 17.
“I think the blinkers have taken him to another level. First up with blinkers he was outstanding to run down a horse the class of Redzel who was flying. He is going very very well,” Hayes said.
Hayes doesn’t consider the outside barrier in the fifteen horse field a problem if Redkirk Warrior jumps cleanly and he can see Regan Bayliss getting a similar run as last year.
“Plan A is probably that he will be ridden similar to last year,” Hayes said.
“Plan B is if he misses the start he will wait and come late, which he has proven he can do.”
“But ideally you would love him in the first half a dozen just cruising along with a clear run and joining in over the last furlong.”
Redkirk Warrior will also have plenty of opposition from his own stable with Catchy ($11), Thronum ($11), So Si Bon ($21) and Fastnet Tempest ($34) all lining up in the Newmarket Handicap.
Hayes has a high opinion of his Blue Diamond Sakes winner Catchy who will carry 7kg less than Redkirk Warrior with light weight jockey Corey Parish in the saddle.
“If you look at her form at her last two runs you could be excused for thinking she is out of form but she absolutely got flattened in the Coolmore, so that was a non-run when she was going very well,” Hayes said.
“And then she missed the start in the Oakleigh Plate and then ran as good sectionals as anything in the race.”
“I think she is going very well. She is a winner up the straight, good filly with no weight.”
Thronum is racing in fine form and after winning first up in the Group 2 $200,000 Carlton Draught Australia Stakes (1200m) at The Valley on January 26 was beaten a neck when fourth to Hartnell in the Group 1 $500,000 Ladbrokes C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 10.
“He has won at weight for age this preparation, and he is carrying no weight,” Hayes said.
“I’d say he will make his own luck up on the pace. He trialled brilliantly down the straight, sure to run well.”
Michael Dee rides Thronum who will jump from the middle of the line at barrier seven.