The Quarterback has the best track record over the 1000m down the Flemington straight but is still listed as one of the outsiders in the Group 1 $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning on Saturday.
The Robbie Griffiths trained The Quarterback is marked at $17 with Ladbrokes.com.au even though he is a three times winner from six attempts over the same course and distance as the Black Caviar Lightning.
The six year old has also won twice over the 1200m down the Flemington straight and this includes a win in the 2016 Group 1 $1.25m Lexus Newmarket Handicap almost twelve months ago and Griffiths has targeted it again as The Quarterback’s main 2017 Melbourne Autumn Carnival assignment.
While Griffiths is expecting The Quarterback to excel when he gets up to the 1200m, he is anticipating the big chestnut will be closing fast on the leaders at the end of the 1000m.
“As long as he is closing and looking like the horse that would be a good chance in the Newmarket it would be fantastic but you can never discount him to run better than that because his form at Flemington down the straight is fantastic,” Griffiths told RSN’s Racing Ahead.
“He has drawn to suit his racing style. He should be out the back and just come down the outside of the field and hopefully get amongst the action late.”
“Realistically his best chance of a Group 1 success in the Autumn in the Newmarket Handicap at his preferred distance of 1200m and it is the race he won last year so we would be delighted to win tomorrow, but he could just please us and finish strongly and give us a good Newmarket prelude, that is what we would like to see and anything better than that would be sensational.”
The Quarterback has drawn barrier six in the thirteen horse field with Matthew Allen back in the saddle after riding him in three 2016 Spring Carnival races that produced a first up win in the Group 2 $200,000 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) at Flemington, a fourth in the Group 1 $1m Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley and a sixth in the Group 1 $1m Darley Classic (1200m) at Flemington.
Griffiths realises that the two brilliant three-year-old colts Star Turn ($4.60 favourite) and Flying Artie ($4.80) look the ones to beat but is confident his six year old will make a race of it at the finish.
“I think that he will close really well and understandably the three year olds are all the talk with a little weight advantage on the older horses and they are a terrific talent so if he can close well and run third, fourth, fifth, and give us a really good return run, I think that we would be delighted with that.”
The Cranbourne trainer is delighted with the way The Quarterback has handled his Autumn Carnival preparation and said he is at the same level as he was at the beginning of his last campaign but will definitely improve with the Black Caviar Lightning under his belt.
“He feels just as good as ever. I thought he had improved going into his first up run last preparation and I think he did the way he finished off really well for us and I think he is the same as his last preparation based on what I have seen of his training,” Griffiths said.
“So I would like to think that the form you read in the book and what we have seen of him in the past couple of preparations is what we will see this time around and he gives me all those indicators that he will hold his form.”
“He is really well. We are really happy with him. He has had a lovely preparation and he has had a couple of trials. One trial here he went quite well and one was quite wet and the public trial we gave him an easy day out because of the conditions.”
“He had a nice gallop Tuesday morning so we are happy with everything and look forward to his return on Saturday.”