Craig Newitt has always known Lankan Rupee is a talented horse.
But six months ago he could not have predicted the sprinter would be entering Saturday’s $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes as the winner of the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket Handicap.
Those wins make him the highest-rated sprinter in the world this year.
Newitt reunites with Lankan Rupee in the richest open sprint in Australia after choosing stablemate Samaready in the Newmarket Handicap, a decision that backfired when the mare finished sixth.
Lankan Rupee is favourite for the TJ Smith and while the track conditions could be a query, Newitt is confident he is on the best horse.
“If he brings his Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket form, he’s the one to beat,” Newitt said.
“A lot just relies on how much rain they get. If they present a dead or slow track I think the best horse will win. And I think he’s the best horse.
“If we get any worse than that, we don’t know. He might go better on it. Who knows?”
Newitt rode the Mick Price-trained Lankan Rupee to a barrier trial win in Sydney last Friday and was happy with how he handled the clockwise direction of racing.
Since being gelded before his spring campaign, Lankan Rupee has won six of his seven starts including all three this preparation, two of those at Group One level.
Newitt said he had always known Lankan Rupee had talent but has been surprised “no end” by his ascension to the top.
“He’s rated the best sprinter in the world … it’s extraordinary,” he said.
Lankan Rupee has drawn the inside gate, a barrier Newitt sees as a positive.
Especially with one of his main dangers, noted frontrunner Buffering, drawn next to him.
“The leader has drawn beside us. I read a report where Mick (Price) is not real happy about it, but in a field of 18 you are better off drawing in than out,” Newitt said.
“Buffering is going to lead and he’s going to take you right to where you want to be. All we’ve got to do is peel off his back.”