John O’Shea’s promising stayer La Grisa reaches a suitable trip for the first time this preparation when she steps out in the 1890 metre Benchmark 70 Handicap at the Newcastle Jockey Clubs race meeting on Saturday.
The New Zealand bred four-year-old mare has been taken along patiently by O’Shea and Saturday’s race will only be her eighth start. Raced by Think Big Stud’s Duncan Ramage and the estate of the late Dato Tan Chin Nam, a Malaysian businessman who owned four Melbourne Cup winners, La Grisa has won two and placed three times from her seven starts.
After a strong finishing Rosehill 1900 metre Benchmark 70 win two weeks before Christmas, O’Shea sent La Grisa to the spelling paddock. The grey mare was a fast finishing fourth first up over 1400 metres at Newcastle on March 31.
Second up again at Newcastle on April 14, La Grisa stepped up to 1600 metres and she turned an eye catcher when a close second. The stayer appreciates the long Newcastle straight and she won an 1850 metre Maiden on the track in November.
Two-time Newcastle premiership winner Jeff Penza who turned 50 years of age on Thursday has ridden the mare in both starts this prep and he will be aboard again on Saturday.
Godolphin’s trainer James Cummings will send four of his huge team to Newcastle on Saturday with promising three-year-old Kateru the “Royal Blue Army’s” best chance. The Sepoy gelding will contest the final event the 1200 metre Benchmark 64 Handicap.
Kateru has had four starts for a win and two placings and his racing pattern of dropping to the tail of the field suggests he will love the long Newcastle straight in his first appearance on the track. The gelding was placed at Warwick Farm on debut in November and he resumed with two outstanding performances. He came form last to go down by a neck in a 1000 metre Maiden at Gosford on April 2. Last start at Kembla, Kateru stormed home to win a 1300 metre Maiden by 1½ lengths running away. He has drawn okay on Saturday and he is another good mount for Jeff Penza.
Newcastle premier trainer Kris Lees had accepted with five of his team for Saturday’s Newcastle meeting. The well credentialed filly Wild Fortune runs in the 1200 metre Fillies and Mares Benchmark 64 Handicap and she may be the best of Lees runners. The three-year-old has two wins and four placings from seven starts and she excels on good or rain affected tracks. Wild Fortune has never raced on her home track with all but one of her starts on country tracks.
Lees has booked his successful apprentice Louise Day to ride the filly as she needed the two-kilogram weight relief after the filly was originally weighted with 61 kilograms.
The 1200 metre Maiden Plate features the clash of four of Australia’s highest trainers.
The Snowden’s, James Cummings, Kris Lees and the Waterhouse-Bott camp all have runners.
The Snitzel filly Shuwaamekh trained by Waterhouse-Bott may give lie to her failures in her only two starts. The filly bolted in with a recent barrier trial.