Autumn Racing with the Newcastle Newmarket Handicap
The Newcastle Newmarket Handicap, held annually in March, is one of the highlights of the Newcastle Jockey Club’s calendar, and a popular midweek provincial race among those featured in the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival. The Newcastle Newmarket is a Group 3 thoroughbred handicap 1400m flat race, featuring a 415m straight at both start and finish, with a long right-hand bend in between.
The race, with a prize purse of AU$125,000, is run at Newcastle racecourse, a course that most punters know as Broadmeadows, after its home suburb. In 2015, the Newcastle Newmarket celebrated its 60th anniversary on 18 March, with one of the heats in the Championship Provincial Series providing an added attraction on the card. The 2015 Newmarket was won by Laser Hawk, trained by Joe Pride and ridden by Hugh Bowman, despite the then-6-year-old gelding carrying 59kg, the top weight in the field.
Broadmeadows and Newcastle
Founded more than a century ago, the Broadmeadows racecourse is the home of the Newcastle Jockey Club, the largest provincial club in New South Wales. Newcastle is the second-largest city in New South Wales, located at the mouth of the Hunter River on Australia’s east coast, 162km north-north-east of Sydney. The area’s abundant coal reserves and the deep-water port afforded by the river first attracted a European settlement in 1797, and by 1799 coal mined in the region by convict labour had become the first export goods produced by the colony of New South Wales. With its conversion from penal colony to pioneer town in the 1820s, farmers, miners and other settlers arrived in numbers.
A thriving shipping industry developed carrying Newcastle’s coal to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide, to fuel gas works, railways, shipping and other steam-powered machinery. The centre of growing industrial expansion throughout the first half of the 20th Century, Newcastle’s heavy industries declined significantly from the 1970s onwards, but the commodities boom that began in 2003 sparked strong demand for the region’s coal and iron ore again. Employment is high, as is the locals’ appetite for entertainment, so the Broadmeadows turf track is something of a community hub and the Newcastle Newmarket one of the most anticipated events on the social calendar.
Laser Hawk Returns to Form
Laser Hawk, sired by the record-breaking American thoroughbred Artie Schiller, was considered one of Australia’s finest racehorses as a three-year-old, when he was winning Group 1 races. A plague of injuries disrupted his winning streak, and before the 2015 Newcastle Newmarket Handicap, Laser Hawk had not raced for about six months.
His victory by a comfortable length in the Newcastle Newmarket marked a triumphant return to form; not only was he the oldest horse in the race, but he was also carrying 5kg more in handicap weight than all seven of the other competitors. Jockey Hugh Bowman gave all credit to the gutsy gelding, saying that has he stayed intact, he would have been the right weight, but as he wasn’t, he thinks he did as well as eh could and although he did it the hard way, it was all down to style and class.