Ben Melham To Ride Star Witness In Newmarket Handicap After Sentence Reduction

By: Sarah Fortnum
March 9th, 2011

The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board have taken two days off jockey Ben Melham’s careless riding suspension, allowing him to attempt to ride Star Witness to an upset victory against Black Caviar in the $1 million Newmarket Handicap at Flemington this Saturday March 12, 2011.

Ben Melham received his careless riding charge for his ride aboard Impressive Eagle in the Group 3 PFD Food Services Stakes on Australian Guineas Day at Flemington last Saturday.

He was initially suspended for eight race meets after he allowed Impressive Eagle to shift in at the 800 metre mark and his mount made contact with Preventable, causing that horse to lose its position in the race.

“If there is a horse capable of beating her [Black Caviar], it’s Star Witness,” Melham said.

Melham had his sentence reduced to six meetings after he appealed and is now free for a ride in the  Group 1 Newmarket Handicap aboard Star Witness, who is believed to be one of the only hopes of upsetting Black Caviar’s stranglehold on sprint racing this Saturday.

The handicapper has given Star Witness a faint hope in the Newmarket Handicap, allocating him with 53kg, which is 5kg less than Black Caviar, who will carry 58kg.

That is a 2kg turnaround from the Patinack Farm Classic, where Black Caviar beat Star Witness by an overwhelming four lengths.

“The handicapper has been very fair and given us a chance with 5kg on Black Caviar, but she is as good a mare as I’ve ever seen at the sprint trip,” said Star Witness’ trainer Danny O’Brien said of the weights.

Star Witness’ performance in his gallop on Monday, where he beat his talented stablemate Keano by  five lengths down the Flemington straight, has instilled further confidence in jockey Ben Melham and trainer Danny O’Brien.

“If there is a horse capable of beating her, it’s Star Witness,” Melham said.

“He’s an out-and-out sprinter, he races well down the straight and his work has been very good.”

Danny O’Brien says that  his colt is in his best form and would be a sure thing to win any Newmarket Handicap, except for one that includes super mare Black Caviar.

“He’s as well as can be and he’s a very good colt, especially down the straight. I won’t have any excuses on Saturday,” O’Brien said.

“I would back him to have won any of the past 10 Newmarkets, but the problem is he’s taking on a freak.”

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