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Replacing one stakes-winning horse with another is never easy for a small stable but Jarrod Austin believes Sydney’s last black-type feature of the racing season is an opportunity to fill a void.

Austin has Spinnawitch, a shock first-up winner, entered for the $100,000 Winter Challenge at Warwick Farm on Saturday.

Carrying Listed status, the Winter Challenge is a target race for the mare who delivered a comeback win in spite of her status as a despised outsider at the same track on July 14.

“We’ve had this race in the back of our minds for a while, being on her home track and the fact it has black type,” Austin, who has assumed training duties from Spinnawitch’s owner Denise McGrath, said.

McGrath made a name for herself as a trainer on the back of the sprinting exploits of Keen Commander, an eight-time winner who was good enough to place at Group One level.

“Keen Commander has been retired and Spinnawitch has definitely taken over as the best horse in the stable,” Austin said.

Spinnawitch was presented at the races for only the third time in 116 weeks when she posted a 2-1/4-length Warwick Farm win against fillies and mares as a $61 longshot.

She has taken no harm from the outing, and, if anything, her improvement on the training track has caught Austin off guard.

“I’ve been really happy with her … in fact she has surprised me with how well she has come through the run,” he said.

Spinnawitch was stakes-placed as a three-year-old but her future value at stud will be enhanced if she can beat all-comers on Saturday.

“She has two Group Three placings but getting a black-type win is important,” Austin said.

“It’s a steep rise in class but I’m quietly confident she’ll handle it.”

The Winter Challenge received an extra three nominations when Tuesday’s extended deadline closed with the three-year-old Hendricus, Victorian-trained Rock Princess and recent Rosehill winner World Wide added to the entries.


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