Trainer John O’Shea has revealed that Bernabeu is still a chance to contest the Group 1 2014 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday after the talented sprinter impressed with a jump out victory this morning.
Bernabeu was well backed in the lead-up to the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington on February 15, but he tired badly in the final stages of the race and finished at the tail of the field in what was his debut at the highest level of racing.
The Fastnet Rock gelding has been included in the nominations for both the Newmarket Handicap and the Listed MSS Security Stakes (1100m) this Saturday and O’Shea was leaning towards the easier race before he saw the three-year-old easily defeat Va Pensiero and Shamexpress in the jump out over 800 metres this morning.
“On the strength of that (jump out), we’ll make a decision after we see how the horse pulls up and what we’re trying to achieve,” O’Shea told Racing Victoria this morning.
“We just needed to see him back in public and get a bit of confidence back for everyone, including the horse, and more importantly go into a race having a nice, steady trial without burning too much energy.”
O’Shea believes that the Newmarket Handicap is one of the strongest editions of the race in recent years and said that he may opt to save the three-year-old for an attempt at the famous sprint when he is an older horse.
“It’s very unfortunate coming out a negative, like we have in the Lightning Stakes, to try and come back and run well in a Newmarket, particularly a very strong version of the Newmarket.
“There are plenty of options for him.
“He’s a gelding, so there are a number of options to run down the straight in Group 1s later on in life.”
Bernabeu remains an outsider in 2014 Newmarket Handicap betting markets at odds of $26; with Lankan Rupee ($4) a narrow favourite from stablemate Samaready ($4.40), last year’s winner Shamexpress ($5.00) and Moment Of Change ($7.50).
O’Shea is chasing his first win in the Newmarket Handicap after finishing third with Foxwedge in 2012 and sixth with Fist Of Fury in 2009 while Glen Boss, who will partner Bernabeu if he contests the race, is also chasing his maiden win in the Group 1 event.