Like a number of Group One races at Flemington, Saturday’s Newmarket Handicap carries a long history having been first run in 1874.
Redkirk Warrior snapped a 100-year losing streak for horses going first-up into the 1200m sprint over the straight course last year.
He is back again this year looking to become the first horse since Razor Sharp (1982-83) to win successive Newmarkets.
The Darren Weir-trained Brave Smash is attempting to break a 70-year hoodoo by becoming the first horse since Royal Gem (1948) to win the Futurity Stakes/Newmarket double.
Six horses have completed the double with the Futurity run over 1600m between 2006 and 2012.
Last-start Futurity winner Brave Smash has the class to win the Newmarket according to Craig Williams who rode the Japanese import to victory at Caulfield.
Brave Smash sits on the third line of betting at $7.50 behind Merchant Navy ($5) with Redkirk Warrior and Rich Charm sharing the second line at $7.
“You always have to respect the Japanese horses when they’re competitive in their big sprints and good quality mile races over there,” Williams said.
“We saw what he did behind Vega Magic at his debut run in Australia before backing it up with a win, but most importantly he ran third in The Everest against a quality group of sprinters.”
Williams doesn’t believe dropping from the 1400m of his Futurity success on February 24 to Saturday’s 1200m Newmarket Handicap to be a concern.
More worrying for Williams is it will be Brave Smash’s first shot at straight course racing.
“There’s only one straight course over in Japan and he never raced there so that is one challenge that we’ll have,” Williams said.
“In regards to quality he’s a horse that they’ll have to beat up the straight.
“Besides his win in the Group One at 1400 metres last time, his other great run was at 1200 metres in The Everest.
“If the race is run true and fast, which Newmarkets usually have been over the past few years, then it can suit a 1400-metre type of horse.
“At least we know he’s had a good grounding going into the race.”