Loving Gaby represents part of a strong three-year-old challenge in the Newmarket Handicap and her co-trainer David Eustace is confident the Group One-winning filly is spot on for the time-honoured sprint.
This season’s Manikato Stakes winner, Loving Gaby is striving to become the second-straight three-year-old filly to win the Newmarket (1200m) at Flemington after Sunlight 12 months ago and is one of five horses from her age group in Saturday’s 13-horse field including Group One-winning colts Bivouac and Exceedance.
Libertini is the other three-year-old filly in Saturday’s field.
The Phoenix Thoroughbreds owned Loving Gaby has contested weight-for-age Group One sprints in her past three starts, for a win and two placings, and the powerful filly showed she was on target for the Newmarket with her Lightning Stakes (1000m) minor placing first-up from a spell three weeks ago.
The filly surged past a tiring Nature Strip on the outside section of the straight course but could not reel in Gytrash and Redzel who came down the inside when the small field split into two.
Eustace does not want a repeat of that scenario on Saturday but is confident Loving Gaby, to be ridden by Craig Williams, can take plenty of beating with 52.5kg.
“She’s bang on,” Eustace, who trains in partnership with Ciaron Maher, said.
“Her first-up run was good and she’s trained on well.
“Craig has ridden her in work a couple of times since the Lightning and felt she has improved.
“I think it’s the right size field that hopefully they stay in one group because we were definitely a victim of the field splitting into two groups in the Lightning and not getting a truly run race.
“Hopefully they stay in one group and I think that will give every horse every chance.
“I don’t think you can say she would have won (Lightning) but she has beaten Nature Strip by two lengths and she probably hasn’t seen the other horses on the inside, so we would have been right there.”
Four-year-old Gytrash, the Lightning winner, was at $7 and has top weight with 57kg.
Eustace has a lot of respect for Gytrash, Bivouac and Exceedance.
Loving Gaby is yet to meet G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes winner Exceedance.
“It’s always interesting when those form lines come together in a race like this but you’d like to think she’s weighted well enough to win if she has a bit of luck and brings her A-game,” Eustace said.