The 2014 Newmarket Handicap field and barrier draw has been released; with the race set to be the strongest edition of the event for a number of years.
Headlining the 2014 Newmarket Handicap field is Moment Of Change who will be carrying the top weight of 58kg and is chasing his third straight victory at Group 1 level.
Moment Of Change started his autumn campaign with a surprise loss in the Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on January 24, but bounced back quickly to take out the Group 1 Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield on February 8 and the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400) at the same venue on February 22.
The Barely A Moment gelding will jump from barrier seven and trainer Peter Moody is hopeful that his star galloper can go one better than he did in the 2012 edition of the race.
It was Shamexpress who narrowly denied Moment Of Change in last year’s Newmarket Handicap and the son of O’Reilly will have the opportunity to become just the fifth horse in history to win the Group 1 event in back-to-back years.
Shamexpress finished his brief spring campaign with a second place finish behind Buffering in the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington on November 9 and returned to racing with a fast-finishing second behind Snitzerland in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (1000m).
While Shamexpress has been well supported in 2014 Newmarket Handicap betting markets, it is the Mick Price-trained duo of Lankan Rupee and Samaready that are currently on top of the betting market at Ladbrokes.
Lankan Rupee has been the star sprinter of the 2014 Melbourne Festival Of Racing to date; claiming the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on February 8 by a dominant four lengths before scoring his maiden win at Group 1 level in the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at the same venue on February 22.
Samaready worked home strongly in the final stages of the Black Caviar Lightning Stakes to finish third, but will have to improve on that effort when she carried 56kg in the Newmarket Handicap this weekend.
The Darley team has been unable to win the Newmarket Handicap, but has a strong hand in the 2014 edition of the race; with Knoydart and Albrecht both included in the final field for the Group 1 event.
Knoydart stamped himself as a Group 1 contender with two strong wins in the Listed Canterbury Classic (1100m) and Listed Hareeba Stakes (1200m) and was far from disgraced in the Oakleigh Plate, while Albrecht looked to have returned to his best form with a second place finish behind Terravista in the Group 3 Southern Cross Stakes (1200m).
Three-year-olds have won three of the last six editions of the Newmarket Handicap and both Va Pensiero and Bernabeu will be representing the younger horses in this year’s race.
Bernabeu failed to fire in the Black Caviar Lighting Stakes, but impressed trainer John O’Shea with his effort in a jump out at Flemington yesterday, while Va Pensiero will be returning to the races for the first time since the 2013 Spring Racing Carnival.
Other notable sprinters in the 2014 Newmarket Handicap field include: the ever consistent Spirit Of Boom, Anthony Cummings-trained Fontelina, veteran gelding Pago Rock and Nikki Burke-trained Unpretentious.