Having claimed the $1 million The Hunter with Sweet Deal, trainer John Thompson has set his sights on pilfering another of Newcastle’s premier races.
Thompson will saddle up the rejuvenated Purple Sector in the Newcastle Newmarket Handicap (1400m) on Friday and he is confident of a bold showing.
The five-year-old has a new lease of life since being gelded prior to the start of his spring preparation, which yielded back-to-back wins at Randwick and Flemington.
While his overall fresh record is average with two placings from six attempts, his only first-up start as a gelding resulted in a narrow second at Rosehill and Thompson says his trial efforts indicate he has returned in a similar vein to last campaign.
Significantly, blinkers go on Purple Sector in the Newmarket with Hugh Bowman to ride.
“He is a horse where, when you put those on, it just switches him on,” Thompson said.
“His trials are normally pretty ordinary and his trial at Canterbury the other day was, for him, actually pretty good.”
Local trainer Kris Lees will be shooting for his third consecutive Newmarket win with Gem Song, who returned from a 15-month injury-enforced layoff with an eye-catching fourth to Masked Crusader at Randwick last month.
Lees has won the past two renewals of the race, which is a traditional Doncaster Mile lead up, with Special Reward and Princess Posh.
This year’s race has attracted a field of 12 with Godolphin’s Cascadian the early favourite.