With anticipation building as trainers look ahead to the weekend’s Gr1 Centenary Sprint Cup, Mark Newnham has taken Courier Wonder under his wing as a hopeful returning contender.
Wednesday’s Sha Tin eight-race all-dirt fixture ahead of the Centenary Sprint Cup sees Newnham saddling two runners, including Diamond Flare, who contests the first section of the Class 4 Kestrel Handicap.
Courier Wonder will make his highly anticipated return to competition in Sunday’s HK$13 million Gr1 Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin. The six-year-old burst onto the scene as a youngster with five wins from his first five starts before setbacks slowed his progress.
Now trained by Newnham – his third trainer after John Size and Danny Shum – the two-time Group 1-placed Courier Wonder jumps back into the fray following an eye-catching trial over 1000m on the Sha Tin turf on 9 January.
“I’m very pleased with him. We’ve had him for about eight weeks now and so far the preparation has been without incident. I’ve been riding him a lot in work myself and I am happy with the way he is moving.
“He had a nice gallop here on Saturday. He just sat in behind the stablemate early then joined him in the straight and he was strong through the line. He’s done most of his work now. He might have a light piece of work on Thursday but he’s in good shape,” Newnham said.
The Sacred Falls gelding rates 114 currently in Hong Kong. He faces the likes of Lucky Sweynesse, Wellington, Lucky With You and more this weekend.
“I was very happy with his trial. Hugh Bowman rode him, even though he’s booked elsewhere, I just wanted to get his opinion because he’d ridden the horse before. He just switched off early, he wasn’t there to do too much, especially through the first half of the trial, and he got through his gears nicely through the second half of the trial,” Newnham said.
Bowman partnered the gelding four times last season. Luke Ferraris hopped in the plate last Saturday for his turf stretch-out, clocking 54.5s alongside stablemate Leedox.
“He’s a long-time since he last won but he’s a high-class horse and with his rating there is nowhere to hide and he has to take on Lucky Sweynesse and Wellington, but I am happy with the horse – he can’t be in much better shape for his first run for our stable.
“It’s exciting. I didn’t expect that we would have a horse of his calibre so soon. It’s a matter of getting him to the race in as best shape as possible,” Newnham said.
Ferraris has two wins from two rides aboard the Deep Field five-year-old.
“He’s come really solid. His last four runs have all been very good and he’s good on the dirt. He just blew the start the other day, it probably cost him the win. Luke Ferraris hops back up this time and it looks a suitable race for him,” Newnham said.
The feature at Sha Tin is the Class 2 Egret Handicap, where Chancheng Prince links with Hugh Bowman against seven runners.
“I’ve had limited experience on him, but he ran really well for me when I did ride him here last season. His form has been good this season, stepping up to the 1650 metres is ideal and there’s a sense of timing about him this,” Bowman said.
Wednesday’s fixture at Sha Tin commences at 13h15 with the Class 4 Spoonbill Handicap.