By Gary Harley
Local trainer Nathan Doyle’s stable suffered a major setback a week ago when the undefeated Norwegian Bliss bled in a track gallop, however, the mare’s stablemate Xpresso ($3.60 favourite on TAB) can put a smile back on Doyle’s face when he contests the Quarry Mining Benchmark 64 Handicap (1200m) at Saturday’s Newcastle race meeting.
Xpresso debuted at Newcastle in July last year and he was runner-up, beaten a head by Turnstar in a strong maiden. Nine months later under the care of new trainer Doyle, the 3yo led all the way to blitz a Gosford Maiden field by more than three lengths on ANZAC Day.
Lee Magorrian rode the son of former New Zealand star Xtravagant at Gosford, and he was rapt in the performance.
On Saturday Xpresso has the rails barrier and if the track is wet that won’t be a problem as the track was heavy at Gosford. Doyle has former Victorian Spring Break ($11) in the same race, and he too has solid form.
Two of Sydney’s leading stables can win the divisions of the 1200m Maiden on the program. The Hawkes stable saddles up 3yo Airraid ($10) in the Newcastle Skin Check CG&E Maiden Handicap.
The gelding's only start was at Wyong on a heavy 10 rated track on April 14. He drifted back worse than midfield on the tight track and stormed home to fail by half a length.
Airraid will appreciate the roomier track at Newcastle and has drawn well.
John O’Shea will be represented by topweight Carartie ($4.60) in the Aaron Walter Century 21 Edgeworth F&M Maiden Handicap.
Formerly trained in Newcastle, the filly has been placed in six of nine starts. She has been placed twice at Canterbury and is trialling well for the first-up run.
Promising 17-year-old Newcastle apprentice Bailey Wheeler will claim 3kg and this is a great opportunity for the young man to impress one of Australia’s top trainers.
David Atkins’s 3yo Contributingfactor ($2.60 fav) can return to his best form in the Varley Group Benchmark 68 Handicap (1500m). Two of the gelding's three wins have been at Newcastle and both have been on soft tracks.
He had no luck at Randwick last start after racing at the tail of the field on a track that disadvantaged back markers.
Newcastle-based jockey Ashley Morgan can salute on the Matthew Smith trained Anythink Goes ($2 fav) in the 1870m Shed Boss Benchmark 64 Handicap.
The colt won a Gosford Class 1 on a heavy track by 5 lengths on ANZAC Day. Morgan recently notched up a century of winners for the season.