After a decade plus of trying, Cranbourne trainer Robbie Griffiths finally broke through with a maiden Group 1 victory after an upset win in the Newmarket Handicap 2016 at Flemington with sectional superstar The Quarterback.
A five-year-old son of Street Boss, The Quarterback came off a sixth in the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) a fortnight ago to take on some of the world’s best sprinters in the $1.25 million Group 1 Lexus Newmarket Handicap (1200m) on ‘Super Saturday’.
He jumped around $21 in betting from barrier nine with Craig Newitt in the saddle and went on to become the longest priced Newmarket Handicap winner since Mookta ($33) in 1994.
Red hot favourite was last year’s runner-up and last start Lighting Stakes winner Chautauqua who jumped okay to settle midfield as Mick Price’s filly Secret Agenda led the field down the famous straight.
Right up there with her were fellow three-year-olds Keen Array and the spring’s Coolmore Stud Stakes winner for Chris Waller, who won last year’s Newmarket with Brazen Beau (2015), Japonisme.
Charmed Harmony meanwhile plodded his own course down the middle of the field.
With 200m left to travel the speed picked right up and Chautauqua ($2.50) joined in, as did the eventual winner The Quarterback.
In a photo finish to reveal the upset Newmarket Handicap result, The Quarterback ($21) got there by a head for his maiden Group 1 success ahead of the Darren Weir-trained Perth expat Black Heart Bart ($16).
Finishing off the close Newmarket Handicap trifecta in third was the beaten favourite Chautauqua who is still yet to finish out of the money at Flemington.
It was a terrific result for The Quarterback who sat back and stormed home with his customary finish, the galloper always going quicker than his rivals.
“Outstanding,” winning hoop Newitt, who also won the race in 2007 with Miss Andretti and 2013 on Shamexpress, said after the victory.
“He’s always been a very talented horse.
“We always had one plan, to sit on the back of the grey horse (Chautauqua) and let him do the work for us.
“He (The Quarterback) was outstanding.”
Griffiths was thrilled to finally get the classic Group 1, especially at “Headquarters”.
“It’s incredible to win a Group 1 anywhere, but to do it at Headquarters in one of the best sprint races in Australia is amazing,” he said.
“He’s got an unbelieve turn of speed.”
Possible next-up options for The Quarterback include the $500,000 Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on March 24, or a trip to Sydney during April’s ‘The Championships’ for the lucrative TJ Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick.
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2016 Newmarket Handicap Results & Finishing Order
Flemington Race 6 – 12/03/2016
|1||8||THE QUARTERBACK||Robbie Griffiths||Craig Newitt||–||8||52kg||$21|
|2||4||BLACK HEART BART||Darren Weir||Damian Lane||0.2L||2||53.5kg||$16|
|3||1||CHAUTAUQUA||Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes||Dwayne Dunn||0.95L||10||58kg||$2.45F|
|4||7||CHURCHILL DANCER||David Hayes & Tom Dabernig||Michael Dee (a)||1.05L||6||52kg||$26|
|5||6||JAPONISME||Chris Waller||Craig Williams||1.25L||7||52.5kg||$4|
|6||5||CHARMED HARMONY||John Sadler||Ms Katelyn Mallyon||5L||1||53kg||$81|
|7||11||SECRET AGENDA||Mick Price||Jye McNeil (a)||6.5L||5||50kg||$9.50|
|8||9||KEEN ARRAY||David Hayes & Tom Dabernig||Patrick Moloney||6.7L||4||50kg||$12|
|9||2||DELECTATION||Chris Waller||Damien Oliver||8.95L||9||56kg||$11|
|SB||10||COUNTERATTACK||Chris Waller||Glen Boss||–||3||50kg||$7.50|
|–||3||TIGER TEES (NZ)||Joseph Pride||Ben Melham||–||0||–||–|