Villiers Stakes: Andrew Gibbons eyes soft run for Articus

IN-FORMNewcastle jockey Andrew Gibbons believes a softer track and a revitalised Articus can give him a first group race victory in the Villiers Stakes (1600 metres) at Randwick on Saturday.
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RIDING HIGH: Newcastle hoop Andrew Gibbons, pictured wearing the n Bloodstock colours, is having a career-best season. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Gibbons, who has 61 winners already this season, secured the ride on the Kris Lees-trained Articus when connections chose to take on the group 2, $250,000 Villiers Stakes instead of a benchmark handicap race.

Articus, owned by Hunter syndicators Bloodstock, started his career Down Under with Darren Weir in Victoria but was moved to Lees’ stable in Newcastle early this year.

The seven-year-old, with five wins in 28 career starts,failed to fire in his first preparation with Lees but has returned with a second at Randwick and third in the Goulburn Cup.The $23 chance will carry only 53kg in the Villiers and has gate two.

Gibbons’ biggest win to date has been at listed level and he was keen to see Articus, which he rides in trackwork, get on a softer surface. Randwick was a Soft 6 on Friday after showers.

“He probably didn’t live up to the expectations they had for him. He was a pretty smart horse when they brought him over from overseas,” Gibbons said.

“But since Kris has had him, he’s come back a hell of a lot better this preparation and back to where he was.

“His two runs this time in have been terrific and if it wasn’t for the hard track at Goulburn the other day, he probably would have won.

“He gets the right conditions here, he gets the soft track that he needs, so he ticks a few more boxes, so hopefully we can get the job done.”

Gibbons has ridden winning doubles in the past two weeks at Tuncurry, Newcastle and Taree and he sitssecond in the NSW premiership to Greg Ryan, who had two victories at Scone on Friday.

AAP: The Hunter Valley’s Newgate Farm looks to have a stranglehold on the InglisNurserywith an interest in three leading chances for the $500,000 race at Randwick.

Newgate are shareholders in favourite Strasbourg and equal second elect Enforcement. They also have a vested interest in Blazing Miss, whichshares the second line of betting and is a daughter of Newgate’s young stallion Sizzling.

“A lot of our model is based around two-year-old speed and precocity so it’s nice to have an interest in three horses running in the race,” Newgate Farm General Manager Bruce Slade said.

Instrumental in the selection of the two colts was Newgate’s Managing Director Henry Field and Michael Wallace from the China Horse Club, which also races Strasbourg and Enforcement.

“They purchase anywhere between 10 and 15 colts a year and we’ve been lucky enough to secure Capitalist at a young stage in the past and Russian Revolution at a young stage as well and they’ve gone on to be stallions on our roster at Newgate,” Slade said.

At $750,000, Strasbourg is the second highest priced yearling in the InglisNurseryand is a winner of his only start in the Max Lees Classic at Newcastle.

Punters expect some of his stiffest opposition to come from his Peter and Paul Snowden-trained stablemate Enforcement, who like Strasbourg is a son of top stallion I Am Invincible and looked to have plenty up his sleeve in a recent barrier trial win.

“He’s a horse Peter Snowden has always held in high regard, he hasn’t been bedded down in the trials and he’s come through that well,” Slade said,

“We’re looking forward to seeing what he can do under race day conditions.”

Among those trying to upstage the blue-blooded colts will be the Bjorn Baker-trained Stralex who at $40,000 is one of the cheapest youngsters in theNursery.

She has finished third in both starts to date, the latest behind Strasbourg at Newcastle, and Baker has fitted her with blinkers for the first time.

“She’s a filly that has always shown ability and there’s no question on her fitness leading into Saturday,” Baker said.

“I’m hoping she can run a good race. Blinkers go on too so hopefully they just sharpen her up a touch.”

The InglisNurseryforms part of a series of two-year-old races restricted to horses bought at Inglis sales and culminating in the $2 million Inglis Millennium at Warwick Farm in February.

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