Trainer Danny O’Brien knows that Shamexpress has the right credentials to create history and score back to back wins in the Group 1 $1m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on Saturday.
Shamexpress was able to hold out Moment Of Change by a nose in last year’s victory and can become the first horse since Razor Sharp won in 1982 and 1983 to win the famous sprint up the Flemington straight in consecutive years.
Apart from Razor Sharp, there are only three other sprinters in win back to back in the 140 year history of the Newmarket Handicap, Aspen (1880, 1881) Gothic (1927, 1928) and Correct (1960, 1961).
O’Brien points to the fact that Shamexpress loves racing up the Flemington straight and has an excellent record with two wins and two placings over the 1200m as well as a last start second to Snitzerland in the Group 1 $500,000 Black Caviar Lightning over 1000m on February 15.
“His last three Flemington straight runs have been a win last year and seconds in the VRC Sprint Classic and Lightning,” O’Brien told the Sportsman.
“He loves the straight and the 1200m and he is very well suited.”
“If he does win he will be creating some history, it isn’t done very often.”
The Flemington trainer also indicated that Shamexpress is a much more mature sprinter and has come back bigger and stronger this preparation.
“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.”
O’Brien was very happy with Shamexpress’ second to Snitzerland and said to disregard the four year olds third in a recent Flemington jump out behind the three year olds Bernabeu and Va Pensiero.
“To be fair I think Snitzerland was just too good on the day at the 1000m she is a very hard mare to beat,” O’Brien said.
“Our bloke was hitting the line well but she wasn’t coming back to us.”
“He is a horse that we hold up in races, we get him in behind and give him cover and he strikes the line so in the jump outs we never try and do anything other than follow the ones in front of him.”
O’Brien is already looking beyond the Newmarket Handicap and is anticipating his return clash with Buffering in the Group 1 $2.5m Darley T J Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 12.
The Robert Heathcote trained Buffering had the better of Shamexpress in the Group 1 $1m VRC Sprint Classic (1200m) at Flemington in the Spring with Moment Of Change finishing third.
“I think he is right up there with the best sprinters in Australia,” O’Brien said.
“They were all there in the VRC Classic and Buffering beat him but we were very unlucky, we will find out when the T J Smith is run but I would say he is among the best two or three in the country.”
Damien Oliver will be having his fourth ride on the O’Reilly stallion and will be well acquainted after the pair finished second in the Black Caviar Lightning and the top jockey will be looking to get some early cover from gate three with the three year olds Bernabeu and Va Pensiero looking to be the speed in the race.
Ladbrokes.com.au have the Mick Price trained Samaready and Shamexpress sharing favouritism for the Newmarket Handicap at $4.60 just in ahead of Oakleigh Plate winner Lankan Rupee at $5.
Moment Of Change, who has won his last two outings in the Group 1 $400,000 Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes and the Group 1 $500,000 Cathay Pacific Futurity Stakes both over 1400m at Caulfield, is on the next line of betting at $10 while Bernabeu has been marked at $19 and Va Pensiero at $34.