It is a very interesting Highway Handicap this week, and Thunderbet’s Johnny ‘Highway’ Patton hopes to deliver punters an early Christmas present in the Class Three (1600m) at Royal Randwick.
Over half of the horses are travelling from North of Sydney and have previously met each other in these country-restricted races.
The remaining contingent is from the Central Districts or Southern NSW, most of whom have been on a Highway.
The Randwick track conditions were soft six at the time of publishing, but it should be a good four on Saturday, and the rail is in a true position.
I’ve looked for value this week, and I think Santa might come a couple of days early.
My first pick is Magic Pharoah ($20), which is drawn to get a perfect run from barrier one, while the Thunderbet speed map suggests there will only be a moderate pace in the race.
Trained by astute Scone trainer Lou Mary, the 4YO mare finished third in a blanket photo finish to the 1600m Class Three Highway Handicap at Newcastle back in November, which was won by subsequent Country Classic placegetter Rematch.
Sharp Shock finished second in that same race and is the favourite for this event, but Magic Pharoah meets his rival 3 ½ kilos better for this.
It’s a significant riding change with Tom Sherry going on board, and it did start favourite last start at Gosford but got too far back and flashed to run third.
I still can’t believe the price, and I think she will be right in this race.
My second pick is Final Comment ($17), trained by Nick Olive. The 4YO gelding is absolutely flying at the moment, finishing second and first at its latest starts at Canberra.
You know, when Nick comes to town, his horses always run big races. I don’t think this is any harder than its recent starts, and it will be hard to beat again if he and jockey Quayde Krogh have a bit of luck from barrier 11.
Imatruestar ($11) is my third pick, and another horse looks over the odds.
Two starts ago, he finished behind Magic Pharoah and Sharp Shock at Newcastle and was unlucky when carting a big weight.
This week, apprentice jockey Ben Osmond goes on board and is 3 ½ kilos better off.
At his last start at Randwick over the 1400m, it didn’t have the race run to suit. If they are able to run-on, and it’s a good track, he’ll give this a shake.
The ‘Each way play’ Charman’s List ($23).
I tipped this horse two weeks ago as an each-way special at 71-1 when it ran third at Randwick with no luck again over 1400m.
The 1600m this week will suit as it has won at the distance. The Rex Cole-trained galloper has drawn the same barrier (2), Molly Bourke stays on board, and he again has no weight and is a massive over-the-odds chance again.
On behalf of Thunderbet, I’d like to wish our readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and we thank those who have taken the time to read our weekly Highway Handicap articles.