Samaready has retained favouritism for the Group One Newmarket Handicap after drawing the barrier most coveted by her jockey.
The Mick Price-trained mare was the $4.20 favourite after the draw with stablemate and Oakleigh Plate winner Lankan Rupee at $4.40.
Samaready drew barrier nine in the 15-horse field for the famous sprint at Flemington on Saturday with Lankan Rupee to begin from gate 13.
“I think the draw is perfect,” Samaready’s jockey Craig Newitt said.
“I just wanted to draw the middle and she has drawn pretty much that.
“She has got speed either side of her.
“She’ll sit right on the back of them and let rip.”
While Lankan Rupee has challenged for favouritism and Newitt has plenty of respect for the sprinter he rode to win the Oakleigh Plate, he can’t understand how the horse has been handicapped.
Lankan Rupee has 56.5kg – 0.5kg more than Samaready and last year’s winner Shamexpress and only 1.5kg off triple Group One winner Moment Of Change.
Newitt rates Shamexpress and Moment Of Change as his two chief rivals.
“But I’m pretty confident I’m on the right horse,” he said.
Moment Of Change has topweight of 58kg and barrier seven as he attempts to go one better than last year when he was run down in the final strides by Shamexpress.
Newitt is hoping for a firm track for Samaready and trainer John O’Shea is doing likewise after the decision was made to start three-year-old Bernabeu.
Bernabeu will take his place despite a last-start flop in the Lightning Stakes when rain started to fall just before and during the race.
Bernabeu won a Flemington jump-out on Tuesday and O’Shea said owner Michael Crismale was keen to give the gelding his chance in the Newmarket instead of a Listed race on the same day.
The booking of Glen Boss at 50kg was the clincher.
“I’ve taken blinkers off just to make sure he relaxes a bit,” O’Shea told RSN radio.
“The key is the weight and having a jockey of that calibre that can ride the weight.”
O’Shea rates the Danny O’Brien-trained Shamexpress as the horse to beat but is hoping a 6kg pull in the weights gives Bernabeu a chance.
“My bloke has got to run up to his best. But six kilos is a wonderful opportunity to try and beat Danny’s horse,” O’Shea said.