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The Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m), running at Flemington on March 14, is set to be a battle of the country’s best sprinters with the likes of Lankan Rupee, Terravista, and Chautauqua featuring in the first acceptances.
Weights for the 2015 Newmarket Handicap were released on Tuesday with reigning champion Lankan Rupee topping the field at 58.5kg. The Mick Price-trained gelding has already won at the highest level of racing this campaign, kicking off the autumn with a strong win in the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) on February 21.
Lankan Rupee is the equal world’s highest-rated sprinter with Terravista, who will carry 56.5kg in Saturday’s race, just 2kg less than last year’s winner. The gelding’s trainer Joe Pride was confused, to say the least, when the weights were released.
“Terravista has won one Group One race so that means four Group Ones is only worth two kilos,” Pride told Sky Racing.
“The handicapper has taken no notice of Lankan Rupee’s Lightning Stakes win.
“I have discussed it with him. If I want to run Terravista in the Newmarket again next year and he wins the races I hope he does in between then I think he will get more than 58-1/2.
“For the future it means he can’t run in handicaps.
“And I feel sorry for Chautauqua who hasn’t won a Group One race and is just a kilo below us.”
Lankan Rupee and Terravista both hold an international rating of 123 in the sprinters rankings. Mick Price’s Lankan Rupee earned his score for winning the 2014 Newmarket Handicap under 56.5kg while Terravista earned his ranking for winning the Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) back in November.
Chautauqua finished a close second in the Darley Classic before resuming on February 14 to win the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes (1100m). The promising Team Hawkes-trained gelding has not won a Group One race yet but will still carry 55.5kg on Saturday.
As well as carrying the second heaviest weight in the 2015 Newmarket Handicap, Terravista will also be aiming to win the $1 million race first-up, a feat which hasn’t been achieved in almost 100 years – the last horse to win the race first-up from a spell was Polycrates in 1917.
“That would be something,” Pride said.
“The plan all along has been to go to the Newmarket for his first autumn run and his preparation so far has been like the rest.
“If he makes the improvement I expect from the spring then it’s going to be a great race.”
Chautauqua is the $3.20 favourite in the Newmarket Handicap futures betting at Ladbrokes.com.au followed by Lankan Rupee at $3.60 with Terravista on the third line of betting at $4.80.
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