Newmarket berth on the line in Standish Handicap
Flemington’s leading summer sprint, the Group 3 Standish Handicap, will see 12 runners take to the straight six on Saturday with an enticing ballot-exempt spot in the $1.5 million Group 1 Newmarket Handicap up for grabs.
The Standish Handicap (1200m), traditionally run on New Year’s Day, has moved to a new mid-January position on the calendar as part of the $1 million Summer Sprint Series, which has also seen the race’s prize purse raised from $160,000 in 2021 to $250,000 in 2022.
Most notably, the Standish now offers direct entry into Australia’s most historic sprint, the Newmarket Handicap (1200m) on March 12.
The last horse to win the Standish Handicap and then go on to add the Newmarket Handicap two months later was Grandiose in 1989, while the last Standish winner to place in the Newmarket was Super Impressive in 2003.
Group 3 Aurie’s Star Handicap winner The Astrologist heads the weights against a field that includes 2020 Standish victor Halvorsen, Group 2 Let’s Elope Stakes heroine Turaath and Listed Kensington Stakes winner Mileva.
Other runners include Deep Image, Game Keeper, Hightail, Outlaws Revenge and Munitions, all who have stakes victories next to their name.
Robbie Griffiths, who trains Halvorsen in partnership with Mat de Kock, believes that his horse is capable of becoming the first to win the Standish Handicap twice since Super Impressive in 2003 and 2005.
“We believe he’s going just as well as he was two years ago,” Griffiths said. “We were bullish first-up and I think he can win.
“He’s had a really good preparation with his return run where he won well and then a very respectable third.
“All of a sudden he drops four kilos down to 56kg with a nice, compressed weight scale and he’s got the barrier to compliment his style of racing.
“There’s a lot of pluses in his favour and he galloped really well on Monday morning, too.”
Victoria Racing Club Executive General Manager Racing Leigh Jordon said the Standish Handicap has a significant history of its own which was recognised by its bolstered standing this summer.
“The Standish Handicap is almost as old as the Newmarket Handicap and it is fitting that there is now an even stronger link between the two features,” said Jordon.
“Trainers have supported the new Summer Sprint Series and the field for this year’s Standish Handicap is an acknowledgment that it remains the leading race for these sprinters.
“I am sure that, in the years to come, we will see Standish winners back in the mix in the Newmarket and the Standish will only continue to strengthen as a result.”
The Standish Handicap is the seventh of nine races and will be run at 4:08pm on Saturday.
Photo: Halvorsen wins the 2020 Standish Handicap under Andrew Mallyon.