Timeform recap the 2019 Newmarket Handicap won by Sunlight for trainer Tony McEvoy and jockey Barend Vorster.
Last week we looked back at the Australian Guineas won by Mystic Journey and noted that this season's three-year-old fillies were coming together as a particularly strong group while bemoaning the lack of star power among the colts. Fast forward to Super Saturday at Flemington and the fillies continued to flourish with Sunlight their star turn this weekend, landing the Newmarket Handicap.
Sunlight edged her rating up from 117 to 119 on Saturday, climbing up this season's three-year-old leaderboard in the process - a leaderboard on which The Autumn Sun appears to be making something of a lone stand for the boys.
It is a fairly spectacular stand that The Autumn Sun is making - his late descent on Fundamentalist in Saturday's Randwick Guineas was a spine-tingler - but once the dust has settled it was really another advertisement for the strength of the fillies. The Randwick Guineas was a well-run race and the form looks a fair reflection of the performances of all on the day - bar Miss Fabulass who fired off in the lead and paid the price for doing far too much too soon.
That result leaves Fundamentalist rated 118 and Nakeeta Jane 115, the pair part of a group of six fillies rated 115 or better this season. That's up on the ten-year average, as are the 20 fillies who are currently rated 110 or higher. By mid-March the ten-year average sits at 15.
Sunlight with Graff inside, picture Quentinjlang.com
The Newmarket was also a well-run race and by virtue of that returned a true result - the possible exception this time being Osborne Bulls who was a fast-finishing second. It was a day of fast-finishing races, with the last 400m appearing to play slightly quicker than the course overall, and that needs to be accounted for when assessing the closing burst of Osborne Bulls.
The Racing and Sports assessment of the sectionals would suggest that Osborne Bulls was left with a bit much to do, and could have been the winner on another day, but not so much so that it deserves any more than a cursory glance. Osborne Bulls ran to 123, the same rating he produced in the Lightning, where again he was left with a bit much to do late on, but that's the lot of the get-back-run-on sprinter. They put their fate in the hands of the race and the pace.
That's not the case with Sunlight, however. She makes her own pace and her own race and she has done so with great success. With her rating at 119 she is now the third filly in-between top-rated colt The Autumn Sun and the next best colt in Graff who ran to 116 on Saturday - slightly disappointing after running to 119 first up. Disappointing because that 119 had come with the promise of more, though it might pay to be forgiving. He peaked third-up in the spring after a second-up dip and perhaps he will still prove good enough to leave 119 in the rear-vision mirror back in Sydney deeper into the autumn.
But the one from the Newmarket that really has Sydney in the crosshairs is Santa Ana Lane. He already has a blistering 1200m win at Randwick on his C.V, dipping below 67.5 seconds winning the Premiere there back in the spring (the timefigure standing up as high class even after controlling for what were particularly slick conditions on that day) and he has never run as well off a break as he did on Saturday.
Santa Ana Lane ran right to his 126-rated peak in the Newmarket. A rating that just 12 months ago would have seemed unfathomable at any point in the life of Santa Ana Lane, let alone first time out as a triple Group 1 winner with bigger things in his crosshairs.
Redzel's return was fine and Trapeze Artist was back to his power-packed best up at Randwick but Santa Ana Lane can puff the chest out and walk into the TJ Smith feeling every bit a match for that pair in what shapes as one of the races of the season.