Newmarket Champion receives 56kgs for title defence

Defending Newmarket Champion Shamexpress has been allotted 56kgs for his back-to-back attempt in the time-honoured handicap down the Flemington straight on Saturday week (March 8).

Racing Victoria senior handicapper Neil Jennings allocated last Saturday’s Group 1 Cathay Pacific Futurity Stakes (1400m) winner Moment Of Change topweight of 58kg for the $1 million Group 1 sprint.

The Peter Moody-trained five-year-old, a runner-up behind Shamexpress with 56.5kg in last year’s Newmarket, will chase a third consecutive Group 1 win this campaign in, having won the Sportingbet C.F. Orr Stakes (1400m) on 8 February.

“Defending champion Shamexpress boasts an excellent straight track record, having won last year’s Newmarket Handicap and running a closing second to Buffering in November's VRC Sprint Classic (1200m), where he finished ahead of Moment of Change," Jennings said.

“While Shamexpress rises from 51.5kg as a winning three-year-old last year to 56kg this year, he has taken the natural weight-for-age progression of 2.5kg which means he has effectively been penalised 2kg for his triumph and subsequent Group 1 placings.”

Shamexpress is one of five horses to contest the 2013 edition that feature among the 31 first acceptors for this year’s renewal. As well as Moment Of Change, Fontelina (55.5kg), Spirit Of Boom (55.5kg) and 2013 third placegetter Aeronautical (53.5kg) remain on track for a reappearance.

Sharing billing as third topweight with Samaready is the Danny O’Brien’s defending champ, who shaded the mare when second in the Black Caviar Lightning at Flemington on 15 February.

Victorious last year with 51.5kg, the four-year-old is aiming to become only the fifth horse in history to win the Newmarket in consecutive years - a feat last achieved by Razor Sharp in 1982-83.

Weight has not proven an impost in the past decade with seven of the past 10 winners carrying 55kg or more with three-year-olds Alinghi (53.5kg), Wanted (51.5kg) and Shamexpress those with less.

A winner of seven of his 21 starts and more than $1.5 million in prizemoney, Moment Of Change is one of four horses – all Group 1 winners – allotted 56kg or more for the 141st edition of Australia’s premier handicap sprint.

Saturday’s dominant Sportingbet Oakleigh Plate (1100m) winner and current TAB favourite Lankan Rupee has been given 56.5kg with his Mick Price-trained stablemate Samaready, a gallant third in the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning (1000m) last start, allocated 56kg.

Jennings said Moment Of Change was a worthy topweight for the race, given his performance in the race last year and his two Group 1 wins this preparation.

“Moment Of Change was beaten by the narrowest margin in the 2013 Newmarket with 56.5kg and he has returned this campaign with back-to-back Group 1 victories,” Jennings said.

“He also ran three-time Group 1-winner Buffering to a nose when a gallant runner-up in the Winterbottom Stakes in November so he’s a worthy topweight in this year’s race rising 1.5kg.

“Lankan Rupee is quickly becoming one of the best sprinters racing in Australia and he was visually impressive in carrying 56kg to claim his maiden Group 1 victory in Saturday's Oakleigh Plate which necessitated an increase in the weight I had allocated for him in the Newmarket

The much-improved Knoydart, a winner of the Listed Hareeba Stakes (1200m) at Mornington in his first Melbourne run this preparation before an impressive third in Saturday’s Oakleigh Plate, has been allocated 52.5kg after Darley yesterday chose to pay the $55,000 late entry fee for the Peter Snowden-trained gelding.

A total of 10 three-year-olds remain in contention to emulate Shamexpress’ 2013 success with Oakleigh Plate fourth placegetter Gregers, talented colt Thermal Current and John O’Shea-trained Bernabeu each allocated the limit weight of 50kg.

Story by Brad Bishop, to view Racing Victoria story click here

Photo by Bruno Cannatelli, to view Bruno's website click here