By Ray Hickson
Everest slot holder Max Whitby is confident he’s secured a top three chance in the 2019 edition with confirmation Tony McEvoy’s super filly Sunlight will run in the $14 million sprint.
The three-time Group 1 winner has already stamped herself as one of the best in the country with wins in the Newmarket Handicap and William Reid against older horses plus her last start third in the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick during The Championships.
Whitby and his partners’ judgment in picking an Everest prospect has so far proven close to the mark in the two runnings of Australia’s richest race.
They selected Vega Magic, runner-up in 2017, while last year Menari was due to run in their slot but succumbed to injury and three-year-old Graff ran fifth in his place.
“We’ve got a class horse, we’re in the top three as far as I’m concerned,’’ Whitby said.
“She’s proven Group class, a young horse definitely on the up. A great trainer. She ticks all the boxes.
“We’re very happy to lock in relatively early. To get it done early I’m happy about it.’’
Sunlight has won 10 of her 16 starts and missed a place just once, earning almost $4.4 million.
She’s the fourth horse already confirmed for The TAB Everest, run at Royal Randwick on October 19, joining Pierata (Aquis), Santa Ana Lane (TAB) and Classique Legend after owner Bon Ho and Carmel Size Racing purchased the slot owned by Greg Ingham.
Sunlight runs third in the TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick in April
Trainer Tony McEvoy said the rising four-year-old returns to his stable on Monday and while a program into the Everest is yet to be finalised the race will likely be third-up and she'll have at least one lead up run in Sydney.
“It’s exciting for my brand and for my stable to have a runner in this race,’’ McEvoy said.
“It’s incredible how the race has been received, it’s real go-to race on the calendar. To have this filly endorsed and have a slot is fantastic.’’
Of course Sunlight is no stranger to Sydney. As a two-year-old she won the Group 2 Silver Slipper and Group 3 Magic Night Stakes and ran third in the Golden Slipper behind Estijaab.
Her brave third behind Santa Ana Lane in the TJ Smith confirmed McEvoy’s view she’s one of the best sprinters in the land and worthy of a slot in The TAB Everest.
“I’ve always thought she was Everest material, the TJ probably cemented it,’’ he said.
“She had a tough run, conditions weren’t ideal for her and she just showed how courageous she is.
“She is an elite level horse, when you look at the form around her she is deserved of this slot.’’
McEvoy said bypassing the Adelaide Group 1 sprints could prove a blessing as it has provided Sunlight a decent break after some high pressures races and puts her in a perfect position to return in the spring with a smooth path to The Everest.
“I think it’s a good thing we’ve given her that break, it gave her an extra couple of weeks and we’ll be rewarded for that decision I’m sure,’’ he said.
Sunlight is on the fourth line of Everest betting with TAB at $9 alongside Classique Legend with Santa Ana Lane the ruling $5 favourite.