My thanks to Darran Pearce for this guest post, taking a look at The Everest, the richest horse race on turf in the world. It’s being shown on ATR, I think at 6.15 AM…over to Darran…
The richest horse race on turf in the world has been creating headlines for all the wrong reasons. The Everest organisers eventually got their wish of having the draw displayed on the Sydney Opera House, but fair to say that decision hasn’t exactly gone down well. Anyway we can now focus on the 2nd running of the 6f contest at Randwick and this year there is Irish interest as Aidan O’Brian has sent July Cup winner U S Navy Flag over. Here are my thoughts on the 12 runners.
Redzel – Put up a really good performance to win this race last year and looked like he would be almost unbeatable. He has won 3 races since although only one came in a Group 1 and that was on his next start after his win in this last year. He came back this prep looking in good shape when winning the Concorde Stakes over 5f, but then he had a little setback although he was able to run a couple of weeks ago in the Premiere Stakes over course and distance. He made the running that day, but faded in the closing stakes and could only finish 5th. That was his only start over this course and distance where he has finished out of the frame and he has won 2 of the other 4. There are two questions for me. First of all did his little hold mean he wasn’t fully fit last time meaning he will come on for it because if that’s the case he might well be able to reverse the form with those in front of him. The other is the probable soft ground. He has won on a wet track before, but I feel he is a better horse on a good track and that worries me.
Santa Ana Lane – Has really improved over the last 12 months having won 3 Group 1’s including the Goodwood on a soft 6 and the Stradbroke on a heavy 8. All ground seems to come a like to him, but the fact we know he can win a big sprint contest in testing conditions is crucial as that is a doubt about plenty of his rivals. I really liked his performance when he landed the Premiere Stakes over course and distance last time and he gave me the impression that there is still more to come. This his 3rd start this prep and he should be ready to peak.
Le Romain – Wasn’t even in the race until last week and he is dropping back down in trip having finished 2nd to Winx over a mile in the George Ryder last time. Won a Group 3 over course and distance in August, but I do think he is better over a longer trip and he struggles to beat the likes of Trapeze Artist when running over sprint trips. The ground shouldn’t be an issue though and finishing 2nd to Winx is no disgrace.
Trapeze Artist – Looked really good in the autumn when winning the TJ Smith by a couple of lengths from Redzel and then stepped up to 7f when beating Le Romain in the All Aged Stakes. He has run OK on testing ground in the past, but I do think he is a better horse on a firmer surface. His two runs so far this prep have seen him finish 3rd in the Theo Marks and then 4th behind Santa Ana Lane in the Premiere Stakes. Both runs were OK and it did leave me thinking that he is building up to peak for this contest and if he can reach the heights he did in April he will have a big chance.
Vega Magic – Was a fast finishing 2nd in the this race last year when drawn wide and he does have a better draw this time around. He then struggled a bit after that, but looked really impressive when winning a Group 3 at Caulfield in July, a win which got him a slot for this. He was 4th in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes over 7f at Caulfield last month where he ran well until being caught late on. He looks in decent form to go close, but the big issue has to be the ground as he has never raced on a heavy track and tends to run below his best on a soft track.
Brave Smash – Ran a huge race in this last year when finishing 3rd under Jamie Spencer when just a length behind Redzel. He doesn’t win very often although he did bag the Group 1 Futurity Stakes at Caulfield in February over 7f one of two wins since coming Down Under from Japan. Darren Weir is a master trainer though and he seems to be bringing Brave Smash to the boil nicely ahead of this. He has finished 3rd twice and then was a really eye-catching 2nd in the Moir at Moonee Valley last time behind Vidora. That was over 5f and he shortest distance he has won over is 6f so this trip is much more suitable. He might not be quite good enough to win, but he is a massive price and he has a decent chance of hitting the frame as Weir will have had him ready to peak for this.
Osborne Bulls – He has come in as a reserve after Home Of The Brave was unable to line up and he in turn was a a replacement for Nature Strip. Has improved plenty in the last few months and ran well enough last time when 5th behind Jungle Cat in his first Group 1. I would be surprised if he was up to this though and he has not run on anything worse than a soft 5.
U S Navy Flag – The first international challenger in the race and is a fascinating runner. He was able to finish 2nd in the Irish 2000 Guineas, but as his July Cup victory showed last time out he is clearly more of a sprinter than a miler. On a line through Redkirk Warrior he would be hard to beat in this, but that one didn’t run to form in Britain and he also got an easy lead at Newmarket which he is unlikely to get here. He wouldn’t want really testing ground, but he does handle a bit of cut so the fact he stays about further than 6f might be a benefit. I personally would have liked to have seen him have a prep run before running in this and that concerns me, but a bold showing would not surprise.
In Her Time – Missed out on getting a slot in this last year and then went on to clock a quicker time than Redzel when winning the Sydney Stakes in what is essentially the consolation race for The Everest. Her only win since was at Rosehill when winning the Group 1 Galaxy Stakes in March. She followed that up by being a 4L 3rd behind Trapeze Artisit in the T J Smith. Has just had the one start this prep when finishing 3rd behind Santa Ana Lane in the Premiere last month and you would imagine that run should put her spot on for this. We know she can handle soft, but if it ends up being in the heavy range then that is a big unknown.
Shoals – Won a couple of Group 1’s in the autumn both of which came on a soft 5 and has won a Group 2 over course and distance on a heavy 8 so the ground shouldn’t be an issue. Ran OK to finish 3rd on his return at Moonee Valley last month, but then ran a cracking race to finish a close 2nd in the Premiere behind Santa Ana Lane last time. That run suggest she is about to peak for this and with the ground not being an issue you certainly have to respect her chances.
Viddora – A horse I really like and she certainly deserves her place in the line up. Has had a couple of wins in Group 1 company and won the Magic Millions Sprint in January when outclassing the field. Was disappointing in The Goodwood at Morphettville in May, but that wasn’t her true running. She then made a winning return in the G1 Moir Stakes when beating Brave Smash at Moonee Valley. She is a Group 1 winner over 6f, but I just wonder if the trip might stretch her in soft/heavy conditions. I also get the feeling that she had the run of the race in the Moir and it would not surprise me if Brave Smash reversed the form.
Graff – The only 3yo in the race and he was a length 3rd to The Autumn Sun last time out in the Group 1 Golden Rose at Rosehill and that one is favourite to win the Caulfield Guineas on Saturday so the form looks strong. He was fast finishing that day over 7f and I just wonder if he might struggle against older horses back down in trip.
Summary – It looks a wide open affair with no real stand out and you couldn’t completely rule out too many of them. Redzel should make a fair bid to make all and win this for the 2nd year running, but I just wonder about him in the likely testing conditions. I respect Trapeze Artists’ chance and he looks set to peak for this, but the ground is also a worry for him. For me the first two home in the Premiere Stakes have a leading chance again. Both look set to peak for this and both have proven top class form in testing ground which could prove crucial. I am siding with Santa Ana Lane to come out on top again as he looks a really progressive horse despite his age. I am putting Shoals to finish 3rd in this as I really like the chances of Brave Smash at a double figure price. He was 3rd in this last year and although I am concerned about the ground I think that his factored into his price. He looks set to peak for this by his master trainer and he was a big eye-catcher for me in the Moir last time. It will be interesting to see how U S Navy Flag gets on, but I connections don’t seem overly confident given the conditions of the track.
1st Santa Ana Lane
2nd Brave Smash
It is also worth playing close attention to the action at Caulfield on Saturday as there are plenty of British and Irish horses running on the card there as they look to get runs in before their big targets in the next few weeks.