Jockey Dwayne Dunn has given the thumbs up for favourite Chautauqua as he heads towards Group 1 $1.25m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Chautauqua returned to the winner’s stall with a head win over Terravista in the Group 1 $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 20 and Dunn said the $2.50 favourite would strip a much fitter horse this weekend.
Team Hawkes sent Chautauqau to the jump outs last Friday to tune him up for the Newmarket Handicap and Dunn was pleased with the outcome.
“I think his fitness has definitely got better,” Dunn said.
“He had a jumpout last Friday and we are really impressed with the way he has done.”
“He got beaten in that trial but it was more about fitness. We knew he was going to back up quick into Saturday. John (Hawkes) loves to do that with him, just give him a little blowout and hopefully take a step back during the week.”
“I just like the way he run through the line. He zoomed through the line and picked them off nicely afterwards. Really happy with him.”
While barrier eleven won’t cause Dunn any concerns, the 58kg he has to carry could be the defining factor with history telling us that only three horses have won the Newmarket Handicap with 58kg or more.
The mighty Black Caviar carried 58kg when she demoralised her rivals in winning the 2011 Newmarket Handicap and the great Hay List carried 58.5kg the following year when he stormed down the middle of the track to beat Buffering who had 4kg less on his back.
The Bart Cummings trained Shaftesbury Avenue also carried 58kg to victory in winning the 1991 Newmarket Handicap.
“At the weights you would say he can’t (win), but good horses defy that,” Dunn said.
“He is a lot fitter, 1200m suits him so much better. I think he has a lot more pluses that he has minuses.”
Dunn will have to wait and see which section of the Flemington straight is the place to be and is hoping the outside alley will be to his advantage.
“We have to see how this track plays, which way we are headed,” Dunn said.
“It gives me the opportunity to put him into open air again and hope we see that awesome sprint we seen the other day, it was sensational to watch and even better to be on board him when he did that.”
Dunn was unable to pinpoint the main danger, saying that this year’s Newmarket Handicap field was fairly even and the horse that gets the right run on the day would figure in the finish.
“Even sort of horses. Whatever gets the best run in transit is going to be the one that will be hardest to beat,” Dunn said.
“My main thing will be to get a little cover early and then straight into clean air.”
Second favourite Japonisme ($3.90) was only beaten a head and a head when third in the weight for age Black Caviar Lightning and the Chris Waller trained three year old will meet Chautauqua 2.5kg better at the weights.
Japonisme’s stablemates Delectation at $9 and Counterattack at $10 are the next two in Newmarket Handicap market order.
Newmarket Handicap market order at Ladbrokes.com.au: $2.50 Chautauqua, $3.90 Japonisme, $9 Delectation, $10 Counterattack, $14 Keen Array, $15 Secret Agenda, $18 Black Heart Bart, $20 The Quarterback, $21 Churchill Dancer, $81 Tiger Tees, $126 Charmed Harmony.