By Ray Hickson
When a horse is still on the way up it’s hard to know where their ceiling is but trainer Mark Newnham is confident Quackerjack hasn’t reached his yet.
The four-year-old has been one of the biggest firmers in the $1 million The Gong (1600m) on Saturday, pressing for favouritism at $5.50 with TAB after opening $11, in what will be his biggest test.
Newnham said Quackerjack earned his shot at The Gong with his second-up Goulburn Cup win and while he’s a ‘second tier’ horse he hits Kembla Grange close to a peak and with Rachel King able to ride him at 52kg.
“I think he is still on the improve,’’ Newnham said.
“We’ve worked out what his attributes are now and it’s on speed and tough. He doesn’t have much turn of foot but he is happy to go a strong gallop and keep it up.
“He’s a second tier horse but now he has an opportunity to run for Group 1 money. It’s nice to come into this race with a realistic chance.’’
It’s been well documented Quackerjack has been a different horse since he was gelded about a year ago, with three wins and three placings from seven starts as a gelding.
He’s been to Kembla Grange once where he posted his first career win close to two years ago. Since then he's worked through the grades to have an 89 rating.
The toughness Newnham describes was on show in the Goulburn Cup (1400m) where he had to work early to sit up outside the leader then held off a classy line up including Kosciuszko winner Handle The Truth and The Gong rivals Goodfella and Noble Boy.
“The other day at Goulburn things didn’t go right for him, it was a messy race but he was able to keep working forward,’’ he said.
“Over the last 200m it looked like they were going to beat him then on the line he was holding them. Rachel confirmed that.
“He’s just a good, tough, on pace miler. It’s his optimum distance, his best wins have been at Randwick over a mile and Kembla is a nice big track.’’
As for tactics, Newnham expects Quackerjack to do his usual thing and look be on the speed from barrier 14 (prior to scratchings) on Saturday.
“He needs to find a rhythm and if you draw inside on those horses sometimes you have to start them up too much to hold a spot,’’ he said.
“From out there if he jumps well he rolls forward and probably sits outside Taikomochi I would imagine.’’
If Quackerjack runs up to expectation he'll likely progress to the Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on December 14.
Quackerjack wins the Goulburn Cup on November 3
Mark Newnham’s comments about his other Kembla Grange runners:
Mrs Maisel (Race 1, $2.50): "She’s a nice filly who runs good times in her trials. The first time she missed the start badly, the second time she jumped well so hopefully she gets away well. The form out of the trial is good so I’d expect she will be pretty hard to beat.’’
Blazing Miss (Race 4, $9.00): “She started this prep off a good break and she’s come back a bit stronger. It was good to see her put the field away first-up and then she took a long time to beat them at Gosford but with the steady tempo the leader set it was going to be a tough task to run them down. A big track will suit her.’’
Final Award (Race 9, $4.00): “He didn’t have much luck the other day but his two runs prior to that were both very good. He’s always had good ability and this is the sort of race he could easily win. It might not hurt having Nash (Rawiller) on him, sometimes he just forces these horses to win. He’s always going to need speed on in his races but I’d say he will be hitting the line pretty hard.’’