EIGHT years after his only Newcastle group race ride, Blake Spriggs is eyeing off what would be a unique double on his home track’s biggest day.
Sprigg will ride the John Thompson-trained Maurus in the group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) on Friday. He rode Geigeron, which finished last, for Broadmeadow trainer Steve Hodge in the 2009 edition and he was thrilled to get another chance.
“For someone growing up in Newcastle, I always watched it, the Newmarket, Cameron and the Cup were the big three and this is the type of race I’d really love to win,” Spriggs said. “I’d be pretty excited if I did.”
Spriggs will also be cheering on partner Rachel King, who will ride the Kris Lees-trained Wahng Wah in the Newcastle Cup.
“Partners winning the Cup and the Cameron, that would be a first,” he said.
Maurus, a six-year-old, was $12 for the Cameron with TAB Fixed Odds on Thursday but Spriggs, the stable rider for Waratah Thoroughbreds, believed the 2016 Ipswich Cup winner was a better chance.
“The way he’s working, we’ve realistically got him pencilled in for races like the Cox Plate and the Turnbull, provided he gets to that level,” he said. “But we have that opinion of him, that he could get into group 1 level, probably more so in a handicap weight race. He’d want to be running a very good race tomorrow, which we expect he will be, to justify running in those sorts of races.”
Godolphin’s Spectroscope ($3.20) was battling for Cameron favouritism on Thursday with Thompson’s other runner, Special Missile ($3). Lees’ topweight, Sound Proposition, was $4.20.
Spriggs had plenty of respect for Special Missile and Sound Proposition but was happy to be on Maurus.
“Special Missile is stepping up to group company for the first time, he has the ability to do it, but he’s still doing it a bit wrong,” he said. “He’s looking around a bit when he hits the front, he’s still got a bit to learn, whereas mine knows he’s a racehorse and he’s very forward.”
Lees said Spectroscope was the one to beat and the topweight of 59kg for Sound Proposition, 3kg more than next heaviest Maurus, was a concern.
“He’s weighted right up to his best but he can carry weight, that’s one thing,” Lees said. “I think he will still race well. It’s just whether the weight gets him.”
Whispered Secret ($13) will carry Newcastle hopes in the Spring Stakes (1600m) if Lees opts for the race instead of Randwick on Saturday.
“If she can recapture her autumn form, she’ll be competitive," he said. “She gives me the impression she’s going to run every bit of a mile and further. It’s just whether it’s this preparation.”
In the Tibbie Stakes (1400m), Lees has $2.50 favourite Invincible Gem, Zestful and potentially dual acceptor Skylight Glow and emergency Princess Posh.
“Invincible Gem is in well under the conditions of the race so she’s probably the pick of my chances, but the rest will all run well,” he said. “If she wins or runs well, she'll go onto the Epsom.”