grandnirvanaGrand Nirvana’s assault on the Newmarket Handicap has hit a snag.

Trainer Fred Kersley said yesterday he was struggling to find a suitable lead-up program into the $1 million Flemington handicap to be run on March 10.

Kersley’s woes have been hampered by the new handicapping system which came into effect on January 1. The maximum topweight in a Listed race is now 62kg and, as the top-rated runner (113), Grand Nirvana would carry that if he was to proceed first-up into the Cyril Flower Stakes (1200m) on February 25.

The minimum limit at city race meetings was raised a kilogram to 54kg on January 1 following a campaign by the Australian Jockeys’ Association.

Grand Nirvana has carried topweight of 60kg three times in his career. The last time was in last year’s Belmont Sprint in which he beat King Kool Kat. At his other two starts with 60kg he finished sixth and fifth in the 2010 Northerly and Birthday stakes.

Grand Nirvana became WA’s newest millionaire with his win in the Scahill Stakes (1400m) under weight-for-age conditions at Ascot on December 3.

Under the new system, the topweight carries 3.5kg over weight-for-age (58.5kg).

“The decision to raise the maximum weight from 60kg to 62kg has ruled him out of having an opportunity to run in WA,” Kersley said.

“We were looking at the Cyril Flower as the race where we could assess his form.

“But it is pretty much ruled out given the change in conditions.

“I’d have been happy to run under 60kg max, but I am not sure I am happy to run under 62kg.

“Under the 60kg max, it was not much more than weight-for-age.”

The dilemma facing Kersley now is whether to trial Grand Nirvana in Perth or go straight to Melbourne without a run here.

“The lead-up programs are just not there,” he said.

“It is a tight schedule and a big ask of the horse.”

West Australian – 30.01.12