FAVOURITE: Playtime has firmed as one of the favourites in today’s Newmarket.
FAVOURITE: Playtime has firmed as one of the favourites in today’s Newmarket. Allan Reinikka Rokaracing

Soft track enters equation for six-figure Newmarket

HORSE RACING: While opinions by nature vary, facts are constants that never lie.

There is no greater nursery for opinions than a racecourse and that will be the case at Rockhampton's Callaghan Park today for the running of the inaugural $100,000 Rockhampton Newmarket (1300m).

The six-figure purse is a far cry from the 300 pounds on offer when Cloudy won Rockhampton's first Newmarket Handicap on June 15, 1918.

As no doubt was the case that day 97 years ago, every Tom, Dick and Harry and Mary will be offering their opinions out at Callaghan Park again today as to who will win the 2015 edition.

A new factor enters the equation this year in the form of a likely soft track.

After 47mm of rain this week up to 2pm yesterday, when he walked the track, chief steward Luke Collins rated Callaghan Park a Soft 6.

"Providing it is fine weather for Newmarket day I would expect that rating to improve," Collins added.

So for the facts.

The Rocky Newmarket with a capacity field of 16 acceptors plus three emergencies rates as one of the most open and if not best on record.

For instance, the 19 acceptors have amassed winnings of $3.7 million from 152 race wins and myriad placings between them.

Impressive indeed with the prize money stakes headed by Pat Duff's Steel Zip ($554,700) and Todd Austin's country girl from Barcaldine, Playtime ($434,100).

Both are genuine chances and remember it was the same Playtime which ran the hometown hero, the irrepressible Our Boy Malachi to a nose in the second of his Newmarket wins last year.

History has more or less repeated itself for Playtime this year as she has again drawn wide at 15 after starting from gate 14 in last year's feature.

While Playtime brings better recent form into this year's Newmarket she has paid the penalty rising 4kg to 58kg.

This is a huge ask for a mare to carry against tough and hardened male rivals such as Daph'n'Alf.

It's a given that the Newmarket line-up is a quality one but the calibre of jockeys riding in the race is worthy of an even higher compliment.

Such as Banjo Paterson penned in his iconic Australian poem of 1890 in The Man From Snowy River.

Banjo, a fine horseman himself so eloquently told us - "so all the cracks (horsemen) had gathered to the fray".

I wonder if Banjo will be looking down from the grandstand in the sky today when the crack jocks jump their mounts from the barrier in the Newmarket at 3.40pm.

There gathered will be the GR 1 winning jockeys led by multiple winner, Sydney's Tommy Berry on Hotel Paradiso.

Not forgetting such experienced Queensland GR 1 achievers as Jason Taylor (Lansdowne Road) and Paul Hammersley (Smart Patrol).

Maybe young gun Luke Tarrant (Le Cap) the winner of this year's $2m Magic Millions Classic and the Gr 2 Queensland Sires Produce could fit the role of The Man From Snowy River himself?

As well there are a multitude of other fine metropolitan jockeys riding.

While not forgetting local star and multiple premiership winner Adrian Coome (Sporting Page) - so they have well and truly gathered.

Jockeying for positions in such a pressure race will make the Newmarket a magnificent spectacle once again.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that Daph'n'Alf will win from Playtime and Ms Ba Bella with Cum Dividend arguably the best of the soft track brigade.

As it is often said, opinions count for little in a race where luck will be worth a fortune - $100,000 in fact.

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