Winter Challenge, Winter Challenge preview
  • The $150,000 Listed Winter Challenge is the feature event at Rosehill on Saturday

Need a hand for Saturday’s Rosehill meeting? Our NSW pro punter Mark Rhoden has put together his full Winter Challenge preview.

Field

Speed map

There’s quite a bit of speed here. Stampede will look to hold a spot from an inside draw, and Cradle Mountain and Seaway will push on from out wide.

Goodfella won’t be far away and Take It Intern can get a nice trail just off them.

Eckstein and New Tipperary are drawn to be midfield or just off it, while Duca Valentinois, Gaulois and Nicci’s Gold will get back.

Runner-by-runner

This is a very even race and it’s hard to rule many out completely. GOODFELLA (10) trialled well before a disappointing first-up run and is a possible improver on a drier surface. SALSONIC (12) performed better than his 100/1 SP last time, but he’d need to take another step forward off that to be competitive here. SHAZEE LEE (13) gets the blinkers back on but has been well below her best this time in.

1400m was a touch short for STAMPEDE (1) first-up. The extra 100m here helps, though it’s still short of his best trip. He’s at his best when he can find the front.

DUCA VALENTINOIS (2) had a brief let-up and is bound to have residual fitness after a good Queensland campaign. He’s around his mark in the handicap now, but most of these are, so the 60kg on its own won’t beat him. He tends to get back which won’t help with the rail out 6m.

ECKSTEIN (3) is racing very well and won’t get too far back from this gate. If she can maintain her form, she’ll be a great chance again.

NEW TIPPERARY (4) raced a bit flat second-up last time. He’s a bit hard to assess here… he could either be past his best now, or ready to improve third-up on a drier track. I won’t be backing him, but I wouldn’t talk you out of it if you fancied him at the price.

GAULOIS (5) is racing very well on soft ground but an improved track won’t be a problem. Where he lands in the run from the outside gate will be the issue.

SEAWAY (6) lost form at the end of his autumn campaign, then was easy in the market and only fair first-up after a wide trip on a slow pace.

He’ll be used early to get a position or caught wide here, and I’m not convinced he’s at his best.

TAKE IN INTERN (7) should have residual fitness after a trip to Queensland. He was going really well without winning before that short let-up, and he looks drawn to get his chance to break through here. An unfashionable jockey (Gibbons) is on, but the horse went well for him two starts back.

Tough old gelding TESTASHADOW (8) should be at peak fitness now. He’d need everything to go right to win, but he’s well drawn and could run a place without surprising.

CRADLE MOUNTAIN (9) showed great promise in previous preparations but hasn’t really gone on with it this time in. An improved track won’t hurt him, but the last bit of 1500m concerns me.

NICCI’S GOLD (11) is a good mare who gets in on the minimum again. Her racing style is a concern as always, but if she gets any sort of run in transit she’ll be finding the line late.

Verdict

It’s a typically even handicap of this type with a lot of the usual suspects meeting up again.

I’m leaning to Take It Intern, who looks advantaged by the map and is a decent price. Eckstein is the obvious danger, and there are a host of middle-pin chances in the race – luck in running will be critical.

It’s not a race to get heavily involved in, but a moderate play on Take It Intern looks reasonable. If taking Quaddies, I’d be going pretty wide.

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