Sydney trainer Joe Pride is taking a huge gamble by sending his sprinting sensation Rain Affair into the Newmarket Handicap on Saturday without a look at the Flemington straight.
Pride did an about face after stating that he would like Rain Affair to have a gallop down the straight, he will now go into Group 1 $1m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) without a look at his new surroundings.
“I’ve done a lot of research on this and spoken to a number of people about it and I don’t think it is right for this horse,” Pride said.
“He’s the type of horse that might get fired up if he has a look at the straight before he races there.”
Rain Affair is having his first trip away from Sydney where he is unbeaten at his last nine starts and Pride is not sure what to expect from stable star.
“When you take them somewhere new, quite often they are on their best behaviour because they are not as certain in the surroundings.”
“I compare it to a little kid – when you take them out of their comfort zone they are a little cautious.”
“It is similar with horses so I think it will be better to take Rain Affair in there ‘sight unseen’, take him blind into the Newmarket.”
The Commands four year old has taken Sydney by storm with explosive wins at his last two starts at Rosehill and Pride is confident he can handle the step up to Group 1 level for the first time.
Two starts back jockey Corey Brown bounced Rain Affair straight to the front and was never challenged when a four length winner over Centennial Park and Shoot Out in the Group 2 $200,000 TAB Sportsbet Expressway Stakes on February 11.
Then the pair repeated the show two weeks later when a two and a quarter lengths winner over Shoot Out and Danleigh in the Group 2 $250,000 Hako Australia Apollo Stakes (1400m).
“I’m really as confident as I can be,” Pride said.
“The unknowns worry me a little, the travel away and asking him to do something that is different to him.”
“But the way this horse has been winning has been amazing.”
Pride’s plan to race Rain Affair over 1400m in the Apollo and then drop him back to 1200m of the Newmarket has been well thought out over a lone period of time.
He said this was a deliberate plan to toughen the gelding up for his crack against the best sprinters in the land minus Black Caviar who is having a short break before she prepares for her Royal Ascot campaign.
Rain Affair drops to 55.5kg down from 59kg for the WFA Apollo win and has firmed into $5.50 on the third line of betting behind nominal favourite Hay List at $2.80 and the unlucky Bel Sprinter at $5.
Top Sydney jockey Glyn Schofield says that Hay List will have to be at the top of his game to win the Newmarket with 58.8kg coming up against some smart sprinters who will be meeting him so much better at the weights.
“Hay List is a great horse and I guess he was always going to get about that weight,” Schofield said.
“It’s not so much the 58.5kg he received but how much weight he has to give the likes of Foxwedge, Buffering and Rain Affair.”