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The hunter - a runner-by-runner guide

3 minute read

An in-depth look at the chances of every runner in Saturday's $1 million Newcastle Herald Hunter (1300m) at Newcastle.

Racecourse : Newcastle
Racecourse : Newcastle Picture: twitter newcastleraces

1. Mazu (Peter & Paul Snowden): It's fair to say not much has gone right for Mazu this spring in the best sprint races and it would surprise nobody if he's simply too classy for this field. Shades of Lost And Running a couple of years ago. He's been plagued by bad barriers, wide runs, setbacks, interference and just about everything else. But he lands here as well weighted as Lost And Running was, having finally drawn a barrier and with Nash Rawiller to ride. There's so much to like. He kept working to the line in the Giga Kick after being outsprinted early in the straight. We've got to trust that he's in the right frame of mind after all his tribulations but he hasn't had a better chance to win a race this year.

2. Vilana (SCRATCHED).

3. King Of Sparta (Peter & Paul Snowden): Excellent return down the straight at Flemington before having no luck at all in the Sydney Stakes a month ago. He sat five wide without cover throughout, giving Bella Nipotina a cart into the race as she went on to run third, but he stuck on gamely to finish midfield. He's likely to get a kinder run this time around though he is still generally a horse that settles midfield or worse in his races so it going to need a bit of luck. If they run along as they should do up front he's capable of storming over the top.


5. Strait Acer (SCRATCHED).

6. Coal Crusher (Joe Pride): You'd be surprised if they're able to cross him and find the front here from barrier two and that's going to be a crucial factor in the outcome of this race, not just for him. He's has the perfect build up, he's improved with each run and he was gallant in the Giga Kick Stakes where he led and boxed on to be beaten 1.6 lengths with his Everest winner stablemate Think About It less than half a length ahead. Fair to say that Everest knocked him about a bit but Coal Crusher was still very handy. So he arrives here with blinkers on, he's proven at the track having won the consolation last year and if he's able to control he will take a power of running down.

7. Rustic Steel (Kris Lees): Local galloper who enjoyed a very good 2022 winning The Coast, Scone Cup and the Big Dance and he's back from a minor issue that saw him miss the autumn carnival. There was a heap to like about his return in the Sydney Stakes at $151 as he charged home from last to nab King Of Sparta for seventh. He's drawn wide again so faces a task and he's probably looking for a bit further than 1300m but it's his home track and we know he's capable. Scratchings help him and if there's a run on pattern give him some thought each-way.

8. Dark Destroyer (John O'Shea): New Zealand Group 1 winner new to the O'Shea yard and you'd think 1300m on good ground would be a little on the sharp side for him. There's no real negative from his trials, which have been on the quiet side, but from the gate you'd think he'll be ridden conservatively to find the line fresh. Expecting to see him do just that and we can assess him for next time around.

9. Excellent Proposal (Michael Freedman): Cheeky little effort first-up since returning from a few years in Hong Kong. He was never going to be keeping up over 1100m fresh but he did find the line very well behind Hard To Say under a big weight. Drops 7kg and aided by an extra 200m so they are ticks for him. Hasn't won for over 1000 days since his Group 1 win in Hong Kong in 2021. Probably another one to watch with a view to going up further in trip.

10. Ayrton (SCRATCHED).

11. Far Too Easy (David McColm): What will barrier one do for this super consistent top class country sprinter? He's drawn out more often than not, in his six starts this year they're all double figure gates aside from the Group 2 in Brisbane where he drew two and ran second. He was enormous in The Kosciuszko coming from the back and running sharp sectionals to get into third behind Front Page. He's clearly good enough to win this race if it pans out in his favour and he can get into the clear in enough time to wind up. Imagine he lands around midfield or so and if that's the case he can be dangerous if those gaps come.

12. Rocketing By (David Pfieffer): He's one of those horses that could win this race and it wouldn't really shock you but at the same time it's hard to predict that given his efforts this spring. They've been sound enough but he's always been that two to three lengths off them at the finish. We can forgive his run in the Choisir where he was always off the course, prior to that he had his chance from gate one in the Sydney Stakes.

13. Sinawann (Joe Pride): He wasn't expected to be sharp enough over 1100m first-up in the Choisir but he ran a promising enough race to say he's come back well. Settled midfield then outsprinted and checked badly early in the straight. He picked himself up okay late and was good through the line. Big plus for him up in distance now but will have to be negatively ridden from a wider gate. Drops 7kg and could be one to keep an eye on when you watch the replays of the race.

14. Opal Ridge (Luke Pepper): On her Kosciuszko run you'd have her marked a major contender in this race. Like Far Too Easy she ran some strong sectionals to finish second behind Front Page. She wasn't herself in The Invitation second-up from three back on the fence she didn't really pick up at all beating a few home. We know she's better than that. A strong tempo would suit her as she will go back a bit from an outside gate and if she can produce a finish like the one at Scone in the Luskin Star she could easily bounce back to form.

15. Dajraan (Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott): He's been sparingly raced over the past 18 months with no more than a couple of runs in a prep and he only had the one start last time in for a solid enough midfield finish over 1200m in the Star Kingdom in March. That's a small concern. Certainly trialling up well as the stable's charges usually do, he'll have to roll forward to a degree you'd imagine and any support will be significant. But on the whole would prefer to see him.

16. Gravina (James Cummings): Very hit and miss but on his best form, which includes a third in this race last year, he's not without an each-way hope. Ran into Opal Ridge in the Luskin Star in May and had no luck when narrowly beaten in the Eye Liner at Ipswich but he really wasn't himself first-up at Flemington. That's a small query. He was unplaced in the corresponding race a year ago before his Hunter placing so a flip around is not out of the question for him.

17. Military Expert (Annabel Neasham): He could be a dark horse in this race, it's easy to forget he's been Group 1 placed, as he returns as a gelding with several trials under his belt. That 'gear change' makes you wonder how much emphasis to put on his form from earlier this year which was highlighted by a third in The Coast back in May. Given a sound out to win his latest trial in easy fashion, draws to be right on the back of the speed and wouldn't be leaving him out of anything pending a good parade from him.

18. Umgawa (Leon & Troy Corstens): Consistent Victorian with form around the likes of Kalino and Tamerlane who are handy horses but would probably be double figures in this field. That honesty will take him a long way, he tends to race midfield or better in his races so it wouldn't be a huge surprise if he lobbed into a placing at odds.

19. Much Much Better (SCRATCHED).

SPEED MAP: Scratchings have helped out Coal Crusher's cause and he should lead them from gate two with Military Expert and Dajraan likely to go forward as well. How much pressure they are able to apply will depend on how fast Coal Crusher wants to go. This should afford Mazu a perfect trail if he can get away with them cleanly and put himself in a race for the first time this prep. Gravina is the other with some early speed and there's decisions to be made with Opal RidgeFar Too Easy probably lands three back on the fence or so.

11 Far Too Easy
1 Mazu
17 Military Expert



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