Trainer Danny O’Brien believes that Shamexpress is in career best condition heading into the 2014 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington this weekend and is confident that the talented sprinter can become just the fifth horse to win the Group 1 event back-to-back.
Shamexpress finished his 2013 Spring Racing Carnival campaign with an impressive second behind Buffering in the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) before returning to the races with a second place finish in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington on February 15 and O’Brien has no doubts that the son of O’Reilly is in better form than he was when he won the Newmarket Handicap twelve months ago.
“He’s a more mature horse, he’s a four-year-old now, he’s bigger, he’s stronger and he’s more seasoned,” O’Brien told Racing Victoria.
“He’s definitely going in as a better article than last year
“He loved the trip, he spent the best part of four months being trained at Newmarket, which he really enjoyed, and he came back in the spring in terrific shape and now he’s going even better again.
“His last two runs have been at weight-for-age, in the Patinack and the Lightning, which are benchmark sprints and he’s run second in both.
“He gets a little bit of weight relief in the handicap, so there’ll be no excuses for him.”
The Mick Price-trained duo of Lankan Rupee ($4) and Samaready ($4.40) have both been well supported in the lead-up to the Newmarket Handicap, but O’Brien believes that it is last year’s runner-up Moment Of Change that looms as the biggest threat to his star sprinter.
Moment Of Change has scored tough victories in the Group 1 Orr Stakes (1400m) and the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m) during his autumn preparation and O’Brien believes that the son of Barely A Moment has gotten into the 2014 Newmarket Handicap well in the weights.
“Moment of Change’s autumn has been outstanding and he probably hasn’t got the credit he deserves,” O’Brien said.
“His two Group 1s wins have been nothing short of sensational, he’s very good down the straight and 58 is not enough to anchor him.
“He’s the one that I think is the horse to beat.”
Shamexpress has the opportunity to join Aspen (1880 and 1881), Gothic (1926 and 1927), Correct (1960 and 1961) and Razor Sharp (1982 and 1983) as the only sprinters that have won the Newmarket Handicap in back-to-back years.