Jockey Craig Newitt rates last year’s winner The Quarterback well over the odds for the Group 1 $1.25m Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) down the Flemington straight on Saturday.
Newitt rode the Robbie Griffiths trained The Quarterback to victory twelve months ago with 52kg on his back and he thinks the six year old is well in with 55kg this year.
“I think he gets in pretty good,” Newitt told RSN’s Racing Ahead.
“If he didn’t have that mishap in the Lightning the other day and runs, he probably finishes with that clump of horses that went over the line.”
“If he doesn’t win, he only probably gets beat less than a length and a half and he probably goes around in the race at single figure odds.
“But because he did his gymnastics in the gates, he had the setback, Robbie is happy enough to run him. He is probably going to go around at 20-1.”
“If he runs up to his run last year, he has gotta be in the race with a chance.”
The Quarterback was due to kick off his 2017 Autumn Carnival campaign in the Group 1 $750,000 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 18 but was scratched at the barriers after flipping over in the starting stalls.
The Lindsay Park trained Faatinah and outsider Orujo were also caught up in the incident and joined The Quarterback as late scratchings.
Newitt said that The Quarterback had been toey in the barriers for him a couple of times but the ground became slippery on Black Caviar Lightning Day following some rain early in the day and he just flipped over on Matthew Allen when he started to move around.
“Having ridden him before, he is always a little bit toey in the gates but obviously when they got that downpour it just made it a bit slippery and when he went up he went straight over,” Newitt said.
The Quarterback’s barrier certificate was reinstated after he completed a jump out with the ear muffs on and Newitt is not worried about his fitness levels even though he miss the run in the Black Caviar Lightning.
“He has had a jump out since with the ear muffs on and got his barrier certificate back,” Newitt said.
“His fitness is going to be right there or Robbie wouldn’t run him but mentally how he has come through it.
“He was ready to run a couple of weeks ago so I am sure his fitness is going to be right there and it will be interesting to see how the track races on Saturday, to see where they go.”
The Quarterback has drawn around the middle of the field at barrier seven in the thirteen horse field and Newitt said that it didn’t really matter if the field split as he would will settle back and will be able to follow either division.
“It probably doesn’t worry me as much as other runners as I am going to be back anyway. But I just have a little vision that they might split,” Newitt said.
“A lot of speed is drawn out so if they are to come across to the inside, all they are doing is to use a bit of petrol and let the horses that are going to be genuine chances have the cushier run.”
Newitt had been the regular rider for the three year old Extreme Choice but was dumped after the pair ran third behind Sheidel and Faatinah in the Group 1 $500,000 The Resimax Group Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield on February 25.
But he still rates the Mick Price trained three year old, who has drawn barrier thirteen, as the hardest to beat in the Newmarket Handicap.
“Especially if the inside is not an advantage, he (Extreme Choice) is going to be in the right spot,” Newitt said.
“But then if the inside is the advantage and the place to be, it leaves him in no man’s land.”
“I think the three year olds have a mortgage on it’.
“The way I envisage the race going to be is that the main players are going to be in the middle of the track.”
The Quarterback is currently rated a $26 chance for the Newmarket Handicap at Ladbrokes.com.au while Extreme Choice is on the second line of betting at $5 behind the $3.50 favourite Spieth.