Nathan Doyle's stable suffered a major setback a week ago when undefeated Norwegian Bliss bled in a track gallop, however the mare's stablemate Xpresso can put a smile back on the local trainer's face in the benchmark 64 handicap (1200m) at Saturday's Newcastle meeting.
Xpresso debuted at Newcastle in July last year when runner up, beaten a head by Turnstar in a strong maiden. Nine months later, under the care of new trainer Doyle, the three-year-old led all the way to blitz a Gosford maiden field by more than three lengths on a heavy surface.
Lee Magorrian rode the son of former New Zealand star Xtravagant at Gosford, and he was rapt in the performance. On Saturday, Xpresso has the rails barrier. Doyle has former Victorian Spring Break in the same race, and he too has solid form.
Two of Sydney's leading stables can win the divisions of the 1200m maidens.
The Hawkes stable saddles up three-year-old Airraid in the colts and geldings race. His only start was at Wyong on a heavy 10 on April 14 when he drifted back worse than midfield on the tight track and stormed home to fail by half a length. Airraid will appreciate the roomier track at Newcastle and has drawn well.
John O'Shea has topweight Carartie in the fillies and mares handicap. Formerly trained in Newcastle, the filly has been placed in six of nine starts. She has placed twice at Canterbury and is trialling well for the first-up run. Promising 17-year-old Newcastle apprentice Bailey Wheeler will claim 3kg and this is a great opportunity for him to impress one of Australia's top trainers.
David Atkins-trained three-year-old Contributingfactor can return to his best form in the benchmark 68 handicap (1500m). Two of the gelding's three wins have been at Newcastle and both have been on soft tracks. He had no luck at Randwick last start after racing at the tail of the field on a track that disadvantaged back markers.
Newcastle-based jockey Ashley Morgan can salute on the Matthew Smith-trained Anythink Goes in the 1870m benchmark 64 handicap. The colt won a Gosford class 1 on a heavy track by five lengths on Anzac Day. Morgan recently notched up a century of winners for the season.
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