Nature Strip defeats Bivouac and Swats That in the Lightning Stakes (Image: Racing Photos)
Chris Waller's chances of winning his second Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap considerably improved on Sunday morning with two market leaders, including last year's winner, likely to bypass the Group 1 sprint.
Godolphin's Australian head trainer James Cummings said Bivouac is "not likely" to defend his title in next month's $1.25m G1 Seppelt Wines Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington on March 6 while Troy Corstens, co-trainer of Swats That, indicated his three-year-old filly would next race in the $500,000 William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on March 19.
Swats That finished third while Bivouac ran fifth behind the Waller-trained Lightning Stakes quinella of Nature Strip and September Run.
"He was just a pass," Cummings said of Bivouac's Lightning Stakes performance on RSN927's Correct Weight on Sunday morning. "He was big and blew out, that's alright, he'll improve greatly with the run.
"An excellent race, they were running the whole way but when Bivouac is nearly settling as close as Nature Strip in the run, you know it's going to take its toll late.
"The horse has pulled up well and we'll press on with a weight-for-age campaign."
When specifically asked whether Bivouac would contest the Newmarket Handicap, Cummings replied: "I would say it does not look likely."
Swerving Victoria's premier handicap sprint in preference for a weight-for-age option is also likely for Swats That.
"I've had a chat with the guys last night and this morning and we're a huge chance of bypassing the Newmarket as well and we may head straight to the William Reid," Corstens said.
Swats That is a dual Group 3 winner who has finished behind September Run in three meetings, all down the Flemington straight. Swats That was runner-up to September Run in the Listed Cap D'Antibes (1100m) and G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) last spring before finishing three-quarters of a length behind September Run in the Black Caviar Lightning.
"We were rapt with the run, we didn't know where to line her up and to see her do that yesterday was fantastic and exactly what we wanted to see," Corstens said.
"The plan was to really get some cover so we were hoping that Fabergino would come across and then either sit in behind Pippie or Fabergino. We came across to do that and all of a sudden Bivouac got the spot behind Pippie and Fabergino goes to the outside so that plan got left out the window.
"She just got left exposed the whole way up the straight, he really had to go for her strongly at the 450-metre mark and I just would have liked to have seen her covered up a little bit longer.
"If you look at September Run she got really good cover and then exploded late. I think if we got that sort of cover we probably could have finished off the way she did as well. It was the best run of her career."
The likely absence of Bivouac and Swats That from the Newmarket ensured September Run firmed as the favourite on Sunday morning.
September Run, a three-year-old Exceed and Excel filly, is followed in betting by reigning Australian Horse of the Year Nature Strip with Swats That and Bivouac the only other runners at single-figure odds.
Waller won the Newmarket in 2015 with Brazen Beau who just like September Run won the Coolmore Stud Stakes and resumed in the Lightning by finishing second to then reigning Australian Horse of the Year, Lankan Rupee, before claiming the Newmarket second up.