By Brad Gray
There will be no hiding for several of the confirmed The Everest contenders on Saturday with four of them set to clash in the $200,000 Group Two Shorts (1100m).
The ‘mini-Everest’ launches the spring campaigns of Chautauqua, Fell Swoop and English while the most recent addition to the $10m million sprint feature, Redzel, will be out to justify slot holder James Harron’s faith.
“He's at a level now where his biggest match is going to be the grey horse on Everest day. The distance favours us a tad on Saturday but Chautauqua is the class runner in the race,” said Redzel’s co-trainer Paul Snowden.
“I know where we'll be and he'll be able to see where we are. It's about getting the fractions right again. He's just plain Jane. He's simple, we know how to train him now and he turns up and races well.”
Although the five-year-old won the Group Three Concorde Stakes so impressively a fortnight ago, Snowden believes there is still more to come from the son of Snitzel.
“He was prepared to win first-up but it's a progression thing with him and that's why we chose to run here because we know we can get him even better again in a month's time,” he said.
Meanwhile, in light of popular opinion suggesting that Chautauqua has never looked so well, Michael Hawkes has been left wondering where the ceiling is for the dappled grey who is already rated the world’s best sprinter.
“He always spells well but where do you get to in suggesting he has got better and better? Where is the cut-off point?” questioned Hawkes.
“It’s hard to explain that he looks better, or is going better, because everybody knows what he has done in the past three or four years at the highest level so it’s all about maintaining it. He is a horse that has only had light preparations and that’s why we’ve been able to get him so far so who knows where he’ll end up.
“He is in a great frame of mind and physically he looks phenomenal.”
The evergreen seven-year-old, who is getting whiter by the season, could be vulnerable first up over 1100m with the stable locked in to have him peaking come October 14 for The Everest.
“The way the race is, with the weight structure, he is well in. He is forward enough but here is improvement to come. At this stage, we are happy with him,” Hawkes continued.
“He has drawn wide which probably suits him to be fair as they’ll jump and run. English is on our outside, so will be interesting to see if they go forward or back but we can only worry about our bloke.
“As long as he gets that sprint up and hits the line strongly. Everybody knows he has that customary dash down the outside but it obviously depends on how the tempo is. You can see them running along a bit but as long as he is in his comfort zone and going through the motions, that’s what we are after.”
English is also reportedly thriving ahead of her return, with Blake Shinn, who has a long-standing association with the mare, confident that the now five-year-old has returned as well as ever.
“She's going terrifically. Her two trials have been solid and she's had a number of gallops at Canterbury in preparation for her first-up assignment,” Shinn said.
“It's a hot race but she has a victory narrowly over Redzel last prep and he looks one of the main rivals on Saturday. I think she is going to be extremely hard to beat, the rail out and given my barrier might be a concern but she's a great mare and I think she has come back in very good order.”