The countdown to the Sydney Spring Racing...
Trainer Mick Price has opted to freshen-up his dual Group 1 winning three-year-old Extreme Choice for a Moonee Valley run in the 2017 William Reid Stakes over a Flemington run on Saturday in the Newmarket Handicap.
The $1.25 million Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) is one of two elite level Flemington features on ‘Super Saturday’ along with the Australian Cup and Price originally had his gun three-year-olds Flying Artie and Extreme Choice in the mix.
The spring’s Coolmore Stud Stakes winner at the track and distance Flying Artie will be accepted into the Newmarket Handicap field taking on the older gallopers again second-up.
He won’t be facing off against his Blue Diamond Stakes winning stablemate however with Extreme Choice to be saved for a night run under the lights at the Valley on March 24 in the $500,000 Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m).
Extreme Choice took out his second Group 1 victory at Moonee Valley against an open-age field of sprinters in September last year winning the Moir Stakes (1000m).
After that he ran fifth to Flying Artie in the Coolmore Stud Stakes before kicking off his autumn on Ladbrokes Blue Diamond Stakes Day, February 25.
A year on from his Blue Diamond victory, the Not A Single Doubt colt caught the eye with a close third just a length off the winner Sheidel in the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m).
Later this month he will be out to hand the Caulfield-based Price with a maiden William Reid Stakes victory.
Price meanwhile will chase a second Newmarket Handicap trophy after his 2014 win with Lankan Rupee in that famous sprint on Saturday with Artie Schiller colt Flying Artie to be ridden by Joao Moreira.
He comes off a seventh in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) from February 18 when beaten just over two lengths.
The step back up to 1200m will be key to him returning to winning form and Flying Artie currently sits as the $5 second favourite in pre-field Newmarket Handicap betting at Ladbrokes.com.au behind Spieth ($4.20).
Another Newmarket Handicap nominee set to miss the straight sprint in favour of a William Reid Stakes run later in March is the Darren Weir-trained Hellbent.
A four-year-old son of I Am Invincible, Hellbent has run fourth in two lead-up Caulfield races firstly behind Chautauqua in the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes (1100m) and then in the Oakleigh Plate.
Chautauqua is currently allocated the 58kg Newmarket Handicap top weight, but is set to miss the race on the weekend meaning weights will be raised 0.5kg.
Instead the five-time Group 1 winning champion has had his autumn plans amended after showing tremendous ability over further.
He ran a very brave second behind Le Romain on a Heavy (10) Randwick track in the Group 1 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) last weekend and will next take on Winx in the George Ryder Stakes (1500m) on March 18.
The official Newmarket Handicap 2017 field and barriers are due for release on Wednesday, while the William Reid Stakes nominations will close on March 20.
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