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Newnham's Maid success sown at Arrowfield

5 min read
A chance meeting, plus some supporting words from an old friend, have resulted in Mark Newnham winning his first Group 1 as a trainer.

Mark Newnham couldn’t have known it at the time, but a presentation to Racing NSW plus a bit of help from an old friend have resulted in him breaking through for his first Group 1 success.

Maid of Heaven (Smart Missile) delivered that maiden Group 1 for Newnham and jockey Rachel King in the Saturday's Spring Champion S. at Randwick less than two years after the former jockey and foreman for Gai Waterhouse trained his first winner.

It was a success that had its origins when Newnham presented on jockey safety before a group at Racing NSW, including Arrowfield chairman John Messara.

"We've always had a high regard for Mark since he was working for Gai and proved himself to be very capable as a racing manager and a foreman for her," Arrowfield's Bloodstock Manager, Jon Freyer, said.

"Mark presented to Racing NSW on the matter of jockey helmets and whips and John Messara came back from that meeting and said he's never met a more professional and more impressive trainer speak. He said we must give some horses to this man."

"John Messara came back from that meeting and said he's never met a more professional and more impressive trainer speak. He said we must give some horses to this man." - Jon Freyer, Arrowfield

Newnham's cause was helped by former colleague Sophie Swain, who was working at Arrowfield at the time, and threw her support behind the push to give Newnham an opportunity.

"She had worked with Mark at Gai's and was very strongly in favour of supporting that view and the first filly that came along that we liked and thought might suit him was this filly Maid of Heaven," Freyer said.

It was an impressive win by Maid of Heaven, overpowering Aramayo (Poet's Voice) in the final stages to claim a hugely valuable Group 1 win for her owners at Arrowfield.

Named for the saints

The naming of the star filly was based on Joan of Arc, who was canonised as Saint Joan in 1920 and has several nicknames, including Maid of Heaven.

Susan Archer who named the filly, explains, "St. Joan is the saint of (among other things) military personnel, which is a nice fit with Smart Missile too. Maid of Heaven was available so that was it!"

It was only two months and three starts ago that Maid of Heaven had won a maiden at Canterbury. After two competitive runs in the final two legs of the Darley Princess Series, the G2 Tea Rose S and the G1 Flight S. Freyer and Messara hatched a plan to back-her up into the Spring Champion S.

"We felt that she was just finishing off really well. She'd only had the one run going into the Flight and I came up after the race and I said to John Messara, 'you know what I'd do', and he said 'you’d back her up'. He thought the same thing," Freyer said.

"After the last race I went and saw Mark and said you might think this is crazy, if you are not happy with it, throw it in the bin, but if that filly pulled up well would you think about backing her up?"

"He said 'yeah I think that's a good idea."

Maid of Heaven

Ready to stay

Newnham said that approach appealed to him given Maid of Heaven had not had a difficult run in the Flight S. where she was sixth beaten only 1.6L.

"She didn’t have a hard run last week, because she drew one and never had clear ground. She pulled up well and she ate up everything during the first few days of the week. After talking to John and Jon, I said 'well let's have a go', she looks like she’ll run the 2000m, and take a chance," Newnham said.

"This is only her first racing preparation, so she's done very well coming from a Canterbury maiden win to a Group 1 win." - Mark Newnham

The trainer has been delighted with the progress the filly has made in her first campaign and indicated she would likely head to the paddock and be set for the feature races in the autumn.

"She's a lovely big relaxed filly. She's just taken a bit of time to come in to herself. This is only her first racing preparation, so she's done very well coming from a Canterbury maiden win to a Group 1 win," he said.

"Really, she has been crying out for ground and a bit of clear ground in tunning. That's what I said to Rachel, have her travelling form the 500 home, and get her in the clear."

First G1 win for King

King was understandably ecstatic after breaking through for her first Group 1.

“It’s amazing. I’m a bit lost for words. All credit to Mark (Newnham) and his team. We thought we were both in with a chance of getting our first Group 1 last weekend but we managed to do it this weekend. It couldn’t have happened for a better trainer. I am rapt,” she said.

Freyer said it was a great result too for the dam, St Therese (Dehere {USA}).

"She was a mare that was purchased out of New Zealand, she was a very good racemare," he said.

"She's done pretty well for us, she bred a filly called Mirrasalo (Redoute's Choice) that Paul (Messara) won a Group race in Brisbane with."

Rachel King and Mark Newnham