Draw Mellows Birchley's Hopes for Newmarket

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Byline: tony mcmahon tmbsport@capnews.com.au

RACING: Brisbane trainer Liam Birchley's enthusiasm about the prospects of Bitabiff in today's $75,000 XXXX Gold Rockhampton Newmarket (1300m) at Callaghan Park, has gone from bullish to hopeful following the sprinter's precarious barrier draw of 16.

In all probability Bitabiff will start from 13 in the 16 strong Newmarket field but even that slight inwards shift concerns the astute Birchley.

"I was happy and bullish before the draw but the wide barrier is a bit of a worry. He has had an ideal lead-up for the race and has done well since his effort in the Tatt's Sprint," Birchley said.

In that race on June 12 at Callaghan Park, Bitabiff lugged 61kg (drops 6kg today) and battled on gamely to finish a close-up 2.6 lengths sixth of 15 behind Danzamonkey over the 1200 metres trip.

Bitabiff , quoted as a $17.00 Newmarket shot, was starting for the first time in 10 weeks in the Tatt's and he will strip much fitter today and has an ace up his sleeve in jockey Robert Thompson.

While local statisticians claim only three horses in the last 30 years have won the Newmarket with 56kg or over, Wayne Nugent, the trainer of 58.5kg topweight Friendly Embrace ($4.60 favourite) was not fazed by their argument.

"I'd reply to that by saying few of the topweights in that time could boast of finishing within 2.8 lengths of a Group 1 winning horse in Swiss Ace as Friendly Embrace did in the Byrne Hart at Eagle Farm in April," Nugent said.

"We arrived at 11am today (Wednesday) and I walked the track and found it firm and solid, which will be in favour with Friendly Embrace. …


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