By Ray Hickson
An ability to break quickly and race on the speed tells trainer Mark Newnham says Spirit Ridge isn’t your typical import.
The lightly raced five-year-old is showing Newnham all the signs of being the type that will speed through his grades and likens him to a horse called Julienas, who was imported by former boss Gai Waterhouse in 2012 and went on to win four stakes races and be Group 1 placed.
What Julienas didn’t do was win at his Australian debut, he took until start three, while Spirit Ridge has hit the ground running and Newnham sees no reason why he won’t be force in the De Bortoli Wines Handicap (1800m).
“I thought he would run top three first-up, I reckon he’d shown enough in his trials, he’d shown gate speed and that he could travel,’’ Newnham said.
“A lot of the imports can’t do that, they find it hard to keep up in their races and are at their top a long way from home but he jumped and travelled and let down well.
“I think he will get to quite a good level, he has the right form platform to improve a lot.
“I’ve found, looking at a lot of the imports, if they come here with a competitive rating and you can start off at midweek level and build from there it gives you a lot better chance to have the horse improving than starting with an high benchmark and working your way down.”
Spirit Ridge scored under 59.5kg over 1550m on the Kensington track on May 20 and since then Newnham has been on the horse’s back to see how he’s come through that win.
He drops 3.5kg with Robbie Dolan again in the saddle and what impressed Newnham about that success, among other things, was how he chased down the leader over the last 200m.
He says the gelding, $7.50 with TAB, is very clean winded and the only real question mark he has stems from his last run in the UK where he finished last of four, beaten 40 lengths, as favourite on a heavy track at Leicester.
“I don’t know anything about that run. The way he is working I’m still happy to run him on a heavy track then we will find out whether he handles it,’’ he said.
“He had a good day out when he won, it’s a nice gap between races. He will keep improving and he has a racing style to do well here.
“He showed a bit of determination which is pleasing to see and he’s trained on really well.”
Spirit Ridge wins at Kensington on May 20
In-form filly Blazing Miss will earn a shot at a Listed race if she finishes top three in the Catanachs Sprint (1100m), a race Newnham said is as just about strong as a benchmark 88 gets.
Blazing Miss downed subsequent winner Threeood to win on a heavy track at Randwick three weeks ago and was $14 with TAB on Thursday.
“She’s up in grade again in a really hot benchmark 88 race I would have thought but she couldn’t be going any better,’’ Newnham said.
“She probably prefers a bit better ground but she did win on heavy the other day and the form has held up. If she can beat that field she is stakes class.’’
The Listed Bright Shadow Stakes (1200m) in Brisbane on July 4 is the race Newnham has pencilled in for the three-year-old.
The cooler conditions that winter offers will suit front-running gelding Knowitall Jack when he resumes in the Sky Racing Active Handicap (1300m) and Newnham said he can make his presence felt fresh.
“I think he will run really well and 1300m is a distance which will let him be competitive,’’ he said.
“He’s a horse that does a lot better in cooler weather than he does in summer. He tends to sweat a lot, even in work, and he really feels those hot days at the races.’’