Willinga Rufio a late bloomer ready to branch out in spring

Any steps promising four-year-old Willinga Rufio takes this spring he’ll earn as trainer Mark Newnham plans a low-key campaign that kicks off at Warwick Farm on Wednesday.

Willinga Rufio wins at Rosehill in June.Credit:Getty

With two wins from three starts in the late autumn and early winter, the gelding signalled a bright future and while Newnham says he’s still on a learning curve, he’s placed Willinga Rufio to advantage in the Acrobat @ Coolmore Handicap (1600m).

“He’s still learning, he still does a bit wrong so it’s better to make a mistake in easier grade where you can still win,” he said. “He’s a very talented horse, it’s just a matter of setting him on the right path to get the best out of him.

“He’s been a late maturer but there’s plenty of time to still be rewarded for being patient.

“His trials have shown he’s probably improved again since last prep, he went a long way in a short space of time. I’m expecting he will have a good spring and probably a better autumn.”

Newnham said Willinga Rufio is starting off at a mile to play to his strengths and expects from the inside barrier jockey Tyler Schiller can have him prominent throughout.

He’s been fitted with two barrier trials and the Randwick trainer has no qualms about the trip first-up, especially considering he won on debut at 1500m.

“I tend to run them where they are going to be comfortable in running,” he said. “At 1400m or under he’s going to get out of his comfort zone and they end up having a harder run.

“He was really quick out in his last trial and I would say if he’s out like that he will probably lead the race. If he doesn’t jump well we’ll be looking for plan B.”

Three-year-old Shadow Vampire debuted in a strong race back in May and Newnham is hoping for a bit more luck in the Furphy Plate (1100m) than he’s had in his two trials.

His debut fourth behind Koshu was more than enough to tell Newnham there’s some ability in the locker and suspects with an outside barrier he’ll at least have the chance to let down.

“It was a really strong maiden and he’d probably come to the end of his prep,″⁣ he said.

Best Bets: Race 4 (11) Vivid Flash
Race 7 (9) Narito
Best value: Race 3 (3) Legend Has It

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