By Gary Harley
Warwick Farm trainer Mark Newnham is keeping an eye on the sky in the lead-up to Friday’s Group 3 Newcastle Newmarket (1400m) in which his former Kiwi gelding Lanciato ($3.30 favourite on TAB fixed odds) has won four of his past six starts - all on firm tracks - and Newnham said on Wednesday that his sprinter has a dislike for rain-affected tracks.
“We don’t need any more rain; we are desperate for a Good 4 or better track rating in Friday's Newmarket. This horse has been placed on rain-affected tracks but realistically Lanciato is not comfortable when the going is soft.
"I am confident that he can beat what is a strong Newmarket field if we get a Good 4 or better. I galloped Lanciato on the Warwick Farm course proper on Monday and he turned in a winning gallop.
"His form is impeccable and I am not concerned that he hasn’t raced for six weeks. That is the way I planned it as he loves to be fresh.
Lanciato came from near last to beat Group 1 horses in his last start in the Carrington Stakes at Rosehill.
"I have trialled him since at Rosehill on February 27 and he is raring to go. Rachel King has ridden Lanciato in his past two starts and although she is an apprentice who cannot claim, she has done everything right on him and deserves the mount on Friday.
"I rode in a couple of Newcastle Newmarkets and had no luck so I am hoping for better fortune watching from the grandstand,” Newnham said.
The trainer is in his second season and is chasing his second Group win on Friday after his two-year-old Diamond Tathagata was successful in the 2017 Group 2 Skyline Stakes.
Kris Lees's Group 1-winning six-year-old Sound Proposition ($10) is another former Kiwi with good credentials. The gelding will carry topweight of 58 kilograms but he has the services of Hugh Bowman and has come up with the rails barrier.
Sound Proposition was transferred to the Lees stable after failing in the Doomben Cup last winter. He won his first two starts for Lees at Randwick before a narrow defeat in the Group 3 Newcastle Cameron Handicap. Sound Proposition has had two recent trials.
Lees has also accepted with the talented Artlee ($7.50) which will have his third start following an injury-enforced 609-day spell. The seven-year-old has needed race fitness in his two starts this preparation and is ready to fire.
Another Newcastle-trained sprinter with a chance is Rod Ollerton’s Royal Tudor ($9.50). The horse was desperately unlucky first-up in the Randwick Summer Sprint in January before a close third at Rosehill two weeks ago.
Chris Waller's Irish import Mister Sea Wolf ($6.50) has a tremendous first-up record. In seven first-up runs Mister Sea Wolf has won three and was placed in another three other starts. In his only two Australian starts, the six-year-old was beaten less than a length in the Group 2 Villiers Stakes and he went down by a head in the Group 3 Festival Stakes.
The Godolphin pair of Duca Valentinois ($10) and Spectroscope ($10) cannot be underestimated. Duca Valentinois was unlucky when close-up after never seeing daylight on February 17. Spectroscope finished third in the Cameron Handicap in September.
Special Missile ($7) has a fine record and trialled brilliantly recently while Shiraz ($10) resumes on the back of two recent trial wins.