You might be quick to assume the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) running at Flemington this Saturday will simply be a reenactment of the Group 1 Darley Classic (1200m) but Craig Newitt believes the race conditions are vastly different.
There was less than one length separating the first three home – Terravista, Chautauqua, and Lankan Rupee – in the Darley Classic on November 8 and all three are set to clash again this Saturday.
Lankan Rupee was beaten into third place by his younger rivals, his first finish outside the first two since October 2013. However Newitt, who is flying from Singapore especially to ride the five-year-old, says the result can be explained away by his three previous runs at the tricky Moonee Valley track, which included a tough win in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) just two weeks earlier.
“There is not a horse in Australia that could have done what he did in the Manikato and still win,” Newitt told TVN.
“He survived pressure pretty much throughout the race and then hung on and won.
“We go into this race spot on.”
Lankan Rupee is the $3.30 second favourite in the Newmarket Handicap betting at Ladbrokes.com.au. The gelding resumed in the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) on February 21, earning his fifth Group One win. After tracking up on the outside of the main pack leader, Lankan Rupee was only a length off Deep Field at 400 metres. He hit the front with 200 to go and drew right away in a fantastic two and three-quarter length win.
The gelding is known for how much improvement he takes from his first-up run, placing in all five of his past second-ups, which has Newitt confident ahead of the 2015 Newmarket Handicap.
With Newitt based in Singapore at the moment, he has not partnered the gelding in trackwork but has received positive information from Dale Smith.
“Even though I obviously haven’t ridden him since he won the Lightning, I know how much the horse improves second up,” Newitt said.
“He always has, his form says he has and going on what ‘Smithy’ says, he definitely has.
“I go to Flemington thinking it’s going to take an almighty effort to beat him.
“But put it this way: there’s not one horse in the race I’d swap him for.”
Lankan Rupee is one of nine horses set to line-up in the 2015 Newmarket Handicap this Saturday, the smallest field in the race’s history.
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