The race had gone exactly to script — but then came the moment of truth.
Would Spirit Ridge take the gap or would he settle for another close second placing?
But with jockey Robbie Dolan urging Spirit Ridge between runners, the imported stayer demonstrated his emerging potential to win the Group 3 $160,000 Summer Cup (2000m) at Royal Randwick.
Spirit Ridge’s win capped an outstanding Sydney summer carnival for the Mark Newnham stable that also included Greysful Glamour’s wins in the Listed ATC Cup and the Group 2 Villiers Stakes but the trainer preferred to praise horse and rider for their bravery and determination.
“We discussed before the race if Robbie could give Spirit Ridge a positive ride early, find Greysful Glamour’s back she will take him a long way in the race,’’ Newnham said.
“Then when the gap came Spirit Ridge didn’t hesitate and that was something we wanted to see from him.
“Spirit Ridge had three starts here before today, he was pretty good when Robbie rode him to win the first race, then he has had every chance his last two starts.
“We wanted to see him put his head out when it mattered. He ended up having the perfect run and got the job done. The horse was very good and that was a 10 out of 10 ride by Robbie.’’
Spirit Ridge ($3.60 favourite) fought back after being headed by Best Of Days ($6.50) to win by a head with Black On Gold ($16) nearly a length away third.
The Newnham stable has denied Godolphin’s Best Of Days feature race win in the Villiers Stakes and Summer Cup in successive starts by narrow margins — he was beaten only a long neck in the first leg.
Greysful Glamour ($7) made a game bid to complete a rare Villiers Stakes-Summer Cup double and led for a long way before tiring near the line to run fifth.
Dolan, a former two-time champion Sydney apprentice, conceded “everything went to plan” on Spirit Ridge.
“Mark and the team at home have just primed this lad for this race today but to be honest, he still has a bit of improvement to come,” Dolan said.
“I’ve won on him before and he is definitely bigger and stronger now.
“He’s got everything you want in an import. He’s got plenty of gate speed and he’s got the good attitude as well.
“Hughie Bowman came up beside me on one of Godolphin’s (Best Of Days) but my horse really stuck his head down and won well.
“Spirit Ridge is an exciting horse because he flies the gates, you rarely see a horse that can jump faster than Greysful [Glamour] because she is a machine, and he did.
“He puts himself on pace, switches off and then has a fight at the end.’’
Spirit Ridge is a son of former outstanding English galloper Nathaniel, the sire of dual Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Enable, won twice in England before being purchased by Scott Darby of Darby Racing.
Newnham said six-year-old gelding Spirit Ridge, who was having only his 12th race start in the Summer Cup, has a very promising future.
“Spirit Ridge will run a trip, there is so much to like about him,’’ Newnham said.
“I will get through his summer campaign and keep trying to get his rating up.
“I might run him in the Australia Day Cup which is a month away and I could also run him here in the January Cup in a couple of weeks time. At this stage I will have Gone Bye going to that race and probably this guy.’’
Newnham said for his stable to complete the Villiers Stakes-Summer Cup double for Darby Racing with two different horses, Greysful Glamour and Spirit Ridge, was “enormously satisfying.’’
Greysful Glamour had 59kg was trying to set a weight-carrying record for a mare in the Summer Cup — a race that was first run in 1890 — but the task proved just beyond her.
“I feel Greysful Glamour would have loved it (track rating) to be a good three again,’’ Newnham said.
“With the 59kg and slightly affected track she couldn’t quite get that break on them.
“But she has run her heart out and half way up the straight I thought she was still going to win.
“She still held the front until inside the final 100m and then the 6kg difference with Spirit Ridge really kicked in.’’
Newnham said Greysful Glamour will be given 10 days off and then be prepared for the Sydney autumn carnival.
TAB BIG BETS
The rank outsider Rocket Tiger just nosed out Vandoula Lass in the first race.
Vandoula Lass eased on race day from $1.95 to $2.70 but still held favouritism.
One TAB punter late placed a $3500 wager at $2.70 on Vandoula Lass.
To the dismay of favourite backers, Rocket Tiger ($23) went a shade better.
Third placegetter Vianello was supported on race day from $4.60 to $4.
The unplaced Cochrane ($4 to $4.60) was a race day drifter.
At just his third start, Pinnacle Prince was impressive in the TAB Highway over 1100 metres.
Pinnacle Prince was well backed on race day from $2.30 to $2.15.
Pinnacle Prince accounted for 60 per cent of the race day win hold.
One bet of $5850 at $2.25 was wagered on Pinnacle Prince close to start time.
Third placegetter Toro Toro ($6.50 to $7) was the only other galloper in single figures.
Shanaya ($18) was the runner-up.
TAB punters following the market move of Bowery Breeze were on the money.
Despite closing on the third line of betting, Bowery Breeze was fancied from $6 to $4.40.
Runner-up Zing held favouritism and fluctuated from $3.30 to $3 before closing $3.20.
Second elect Pitchfork was a notable race day drifter ($2.70 to $4) and failed to run a place.
The Guru ($15) finished third.
A late firm in the market for Amica paid dividends for TAB punters that followed the money.
Amica was as much as $9.50 on race day before eventually closing a $7.50 chance.
The strong move that commenced on Wednesday was for La Grisa.
La Grisa opened $18 on Wednesday and was supported on race day from $11 to $4.80.
La Grisa and the other equal favourite Nyami ($6.50 to $4.80) did not finish in the placings.
Criminal Code ($5.50 to $8.50) and Sacramento ($14 to $19) were the minor placegetters.
One TAB punter was urging Bigboyroy to edge out Frosty Rocks in a close finish.
Just before the barriers opened, a wager of $15,000 at $4.20 was placed on Bigboyroy.
Bigboyroy ($3.70 to $4.20 on race day) had enough in reserve to overtake Frosty Rocks late.
Frosty Rocks was the eventual $3.70 favourite after hovering around $3.70-$3.80 on race day.
Third placegetter Word For Word was supported at a price from $19 to $10.
The well supported Spirit Ridge was able to power late and salute in the Summer Cup.
After opening $4.60 on Wednesday; Spirit Ridge was immediately backed.
On race day, Spirit Ridge was $3.30 out to $3.70 before closing $3.50 favourite.
A TAB punter had a $3000 bet at $3.70 on Spirit Ridge late in betting.
Runner-up Best Of Days was fancied on race day from $9 to $6.50.
One wager of $3000 at $6.50 was placed on Best Of Days.
The unplaced Laure Me In drifted from $4 to $4.60 on race day.
Villiers Stakes winner Greysful Glamour eased on race day from $4.60 to $7.
Black On Gold ($12 to $16) was the third placegetter.
All Time Legend showed a devastating burst of speed to win his fourth race from six starts.
All Time Legend shortened from $8 to $5 equal favourite with Amish Boy.
Unplaced equal favourite Amish Boy was backed from $6.50 to $5 but failed to run a place.
Bets of $4000 and $3000 at $5.50 were wagered on Amish Boy.
Knickpoint – also unplaced – was as much as $6 on race day before closing $5.
Quantico ($4 to $7.50 on race day) was another unplaced galloper high in betting.
Lancaster Bomber ($13 to $26) and He’s A Hotshot ($11 to $19) were the minor placegetters.
Most Quaddie tickets were confetti after Dream Circle saluted in a major surprise.
Dream Circle was unwanted on race day drifting from $21 to $41.
However, one bet of $1500 each-way at $34/$7 was placed on Dream Circle.
The big firmer was Travest ($4.80 to $3.70 equal favourite) but the gelding did not place.
One bet of $5500 at $4.20 was wagered on Travest.
Third placegetter Ellsberg eased from $3.10 to $3.90 on race day before closing $3.70.
Late in betting, one wager of $5000 at $3.70 was placed on Ellsberg.
The unplaced St Covet’s Spirit firmed on race day from $6.50 to $5.50 (touched $5).
Intrepidacious ($17 to $12 before closing $14) was the runner-up.
Dunbrody Power easily accounted for her rivals in the last 200 metres.
Dunbrody Power was the third elect and solid on race day around $5.50-$6 (closed $5.50).
One bet of $5000 at $5.50 was placed on Dunbrody Power.
Unplaced favourite La Foret was backed from $4.20 to $3.70 on race day.
Third placegetter Madam Legend tightened late from $4.20 to $3.90.
Runner-up Starla was solid around the $7-$7.50 mark before closing $7.50.