Blast off to England!
West Australian sprinter Scenic Blast, who underwent a throat operation last spring, is bound for Royal Ascot after carrying one of the highest weights in the last 50 years to victory in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington.
The four-year-old, who was decked twice in the Oakleigh Plate two weeks ago, recaptured his Lightning Stakes-winning form by shouldering 57kg to beat Swiss Ace by a short neck with Aichi a length away third.
Trainer Daniel Morton, 37, described it as his biggest thrill in racing and believes that Scenic Blast can reach new heights in the feature sprints at Royal Ascot in England this winter.
“He is right sort of horse to do it as he is such a big bugger,” Morton said.
Morton, who had a bloodied hand resulting from the hammering he gave it as Scenic Blast made his charge down the straight at Flemington on Saturday, admitted Scenic Blast took such a buffeting in the Oakleigh Plate that he feared at one stage that he may not get him up for the Newmarket.
“He wasn’t out of the woods for three or four days after that (the Oakleigh Plate),” Morton said.
“To his credit he is a good fresh horse so we were able to put him back together for this.
“It was super win and a super ride again by Steve (Arnold).
“He had a wall of horses in front of him but he just picked a nice passage.”
Arnold, who has now won 15 Group One races, said barrier two was always going to be a challenge in a near capacity field, particularly as Scenic Blast needs to be ridden off the pace to produce his best.
“There was a little bit of traffic in front of us early but he relaxed well and from the 600 metres he started to tow me into it,” Arnold said.
“He has a really powerful finish when he gets the right run and to win a Newmarket with 57kg is a pretty good effort.”
International sprinter Takeover Target won the 2006 Newmarket carrying 57kg before winning the King’s Stand and finishing third in the Golden Jubilee at Royal Ascot.
Only Shaftesbury Avenue (58kg, 1991), Black Onyx (57.5kg, 1970) and Gold Stakes (60kg, 1959) have carried more weight to win the Newmarket in the last 50 years.
As a three-year-old Scenic Blast was placed in both the Ascot Vale Stakes and Caulfield Guineas and Morton was looking forward to another big spring from him last year before he suffered a breathing problem which needed surgery.
“We have had the odd problem with him but he has raced super in the highest class,” he said.
“We always knew he was up to it that is why we kept bringing him back.”
Morton said Scenic Blast would be immediately given a break in Melbourne before flying back to Perth.
“We will make plans from there but we were always thinking of Royal Ascot, win lose or draw today,” he said.
“We just wanted to make sure he came through it in one piece.
Drama unfolded before the race when Duporth broke through the gates with the riderless Fighting Fund who was a late scratching which reduced the field to 22.
All Newmarket runners steered away from the grandstand rail from the start with a band of horses coming down the centre of the track.
Swiss Ace showed his Oakleigh Plate win wasn’t a fluke by finishing second while Aichi stamped himself as a Group One horse with his third for trainer Peter Snowden.
The Gai Waterhouse-trained three-year-old Northern Meteor finished a close fourth and Patinack Farm Classic winner Swick stormed home from last to finish fifth. Another three-year-old Fist Of Fury finished sixth.