By Gary Harley
Champion trainer Darren Weir will have his first ever runner at Newcastle Racecourse and will be there to saddle up the in-form European import Pacodali in Friday's $175,000 Group 3 XXXX Gold Newcastle Cup (2300m).
The Newcastle Cup is the highlight of an eight-race program which includes four Group 3 events - the $150,000 Australian Bloodstock Cameron Handicap (1500m), the $150,000 Yarraman Park Tibbie Stakes (1400m) and the $150,000 NBN News NJC 3YO Spring Stakes (1600m).
Pacodali has won his last three starts – two at Flemington and one at Moonee Valley. He is a stout stayer and at his last outing over the 2040m at Moonee Valley, the five-year-old came from near last to beat 2016 Melbourne Cup winner Almandin.
Jockey Damian Lane partnered the gelding at Moonee Valley and has been booked for the Newcastle Cup ride. Wyong Cup Winner Destiny’s Kiss is in top form and has a great chance.
Local trainer Kris Lees, yet to taste success in his hometown Cup, will run three stayers on Friday. They are Admiral Jello, Wahng Wah, and Doukhan. Admiral Jello is racing well in weaker company and he will carry 5kg less than when placed at Randwick last start.
The gelding has won over 2400m so the trip won’t be a problem and Corey Brown rides. Wahng Wah was gallant when runner-up to Up 'N' Rolling last start at Randwick and she is in fine form.
Doukhan finished more than four lengths behind Wahng Wah at Randwick and needs to improve sharply to figure in the finish. Wyong Cup runner-up Sayed should back up well with his light weight and in-form Kerrin McEvoy aboard. Auvray was strong winning over 2400m last start at Randwick.
Kiwi galloper Sound Proposition is the one to beat in the Cameron Handicap after two impressive Randwick wins during the winter. A Group 1 winner in New Zealand, Sound Proposition is unbeaten since entering the Lees stable at Newcastle. His Cameron rider Blake Shinn rode him in a solo track gallop on the Newcastle Course Proper between races recently and he absolutely flew.
Special Missile has won five on-the-trot and is an on-pace runner with a light weight, barrier one and Brenton Avdulla aboard. Kings Guard was runner-up in the recent Hawksbury Rowley Mile and he beat a smart field at Rosehill two starts back. The Godolphin galloper Spectroscope has a good first-up record and won the Doncaster Prelude in the autumn.
A capacity field of Fillies and Mares will run in the Tibbie Stakes. Invincible Gem is having her third run this preparation after a cracking second up third in the Tramway. She won the Group 2 Missile Stakes first-up and last prep saluted in the Group 3 Newcastle Spring Stakes run at Randwick. The filly was beaten a head in the Group 1 Randwick Guineas in March.
Imposing Lass has had two starts this prep and she is in top form. The mare was narrowly beaten in the Toy Show first-up and was a close second in the Wyong Mona Lisa last start. Philosophy is a progressive mare with a great record and she is a good each way chance.
The boom Frankel colt Merovee returns to Newcastle Racecourse to contest the Spring Stakes and he will start favourite. He was most impressive in a first-up maiden win on the Beaumont Track in August and the colt backed that effort up with a cracking second at Randwick in very good company.
Astoria has been placed in a couple of Group races and he is a threat, while Hypnotist has won three from four and is place hope.