Sydney Cup goal for progressive Spirit Ridge

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If Mark Newnham was looking for an ideal test of Spirit Ridge’s autumn carnival credentials, he has found it in the Sky High Stakes.

The eight-horse field boasts Sydney Cup winner Shraaoh, Metropolitan Handicap victor Mirage Dancer, Caulfield Cup placegetter The Chosen One and two Oaks heroines in Colette and Toffee Tongue.

“It’s a good field,” Newnham said. “But he needs to get his preparation started. It will be an interesting race tactics-wise because there doesn’t look to be any speed in the race.”

Newnham has been a fan of Spirit Ridge since the UK import arrived in Australia last year.

He has patiently taken the six-year-old through his grades and was rewarded with back-to-back wins in the Summer and January Cups.

Those victories earned the horse a place on Newnham’s autumn carnival team and after a bout of colic forced him to miss his scheduled resumption last week, Spirit Ridge will kick off in Saturday’s Sky High Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.

“It’s just about nurturing that talent now and getting him in the right races and hopefully that right race is the Sydney Cup,” Newnham said.

Recent stable addition The Irishman will represent the team in the Group Two Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) and Newnham has formed a nice opinion of the former New Zealander.

A winner in midweek benchmark grade at his Australian debut, Newnham described the Tavistock three-year-old as a “promising horse” and he has entered him for all the big races, including the Australian Derby and Doncaster Mile.

“He was originally going to go straight to Hong Kong but they decided to give him a preparation here in Australia first,” Newnham said.

“They asked me if I wanted to train him, I had a quick look at his form and the answer was quickly ‘yes’.”

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