ONE of the world’s biggest racing operations, Godolphin, won Newcastle’s richest race, the $1 million The Hunter, last year with Savatiano.
The Kim Waugh-trained Trumbull is early favourite on TAB Fixed Odds at $4.50.
Of the 28 entries, 12 horses boast a handicap rating of 100 or higher. The field of 15 will be finalised on Wednesday morning.
The Newcastle stand-alone meeting, which has $1,985,000 in prizemoney, has attracted 189 entries for the nine races.
“The million dollar prize money for The Hunter is a nice carrot for trainers but it is quickly become a track of choice for the leading stables to send their horses. regardless of whether it is a group race, a million race or a maiden,” Buckley said.
“They have confidence with the evenness of the track, how consistent it is with its racing, its rating and the bonus is it can cop a lot of rain. It has a natural cushion in it, is a well cambered, open track. There are not too many negatives for a trainer to bring their horses to Newcastle.”
Savatiano, which won the Group 2 Hot Danish Stakes at Rosehill last Saturday, has been allocated topweight of 59kg, which is 3.5kg more than she carried to success in the inaugural The Hunter last year.
“It’s good to see Savatiano in the nominations,” Buckley said.
“Tactical Advantage ran second in the race last year and has come back to Newcastle after a disappointing Melbourne Cup carnival.
“There are a fair few horses with a bit of upside.Trumbull was good in the Sydney Stakes first-up. It looks a nice race for a horse like Cuba. Even a horse like Eleven Eleven.”
A well as The Hunter, the meeting features the $160,000 group 3 Spring Stakes (1600m) and the $125,000 Max Lees Classic (900m).
The Spring Stakes, for three-year-olds, used to be part of the Newcastle Cup carnival in September and has attracted nine entries.
“Last year was a similar set up with only a smallish field,” Buckley said. “The winner was Asiago from the Godolphin stable, which is nominated for The Hunter.
“She won the Mona Lisa Stakes (1350m) at Wyong first-up this preparation and went on an Oaks trail.”