Star Witness turned in what looked like a winning gallop at Flemington on Tuesday morning, but that was tempered by the fact that he will bump into super mare Black Caviar in Saturday’s $1 million Newmarket Handicap.
The Starcraft colt bounded away from older stablemate Keano in a workout down the straight course to beat him by six lengths and looked terrific in doing so.
“I would back him to have won any of the last 10 Newmarkets,” trainer Danny O’Brien said.
“But he’s going into one that’s got a freak in it.
“She’s as good a mare as I’ve ever seen at sprint distances.”
Black Caviar had been $1.35 favourite to make it 10 out of 10 in the Newmarket (1200m) with TAB Sportsbet but on Tuesday she was even shorter, firming to $1.25.
Hay List is second pick at $12 with Star Witness at $18 and Response next at $21.
While other Newmarket prospects Response, Oakleigh Plate winner Eagle Falls and Beaded were going through their paces at Flemington, trainer Peter Moody was at Caulfield with Black Caviar who galloped over 800m, not being let off the bit.
“Obviously this is her biggest test under the handicap conditions, but she worked super here this morning,” he said.
“I’m very pleased with her, she’s in very good shape.
“We know she can run fast. She was just ticking over, she’s pretty fit at this stage with that run (in the Lightning Stakes) under her belt and a couple of jumpouts.
“She worked over a half-mile (800m) and quickened home nicely her last 600 metres.”
Moody said Black Caviar had come on since beating Hay List eased down by 3-1/4 lengths in the Lightning (1000m) at Flemington on February 19.
“I think so. She’s taken natural fitness out of it and each day she seems to be more mature and she copes with everything better these days,” he said.
“It’s a scary thought to think she could go better but we haven’t seen her pressured yet so it will be interesting.”
Master trainer Bart Cummings, who has won a record eight Newmarkets, doesn’t have a runner this year but has admired Black Caviar from afar.
“If you did have a runner you’d be hard-pressed to beat her. She’s very good,” Cummings said.
“Maybe Mahal was very good. I think she won six or seven Group Ones. We’ve had a lot of good ones (sprinters) but she is equal to the best we’ve had.”