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The TAB Everest - A Runner By Runner Guide

By Brad Gray

Brad Gray profiles all 12 TAB Everest contenders ahead of the $15m sprint feature on Saturday at Royal Randwick.

1.NATURE STRIP (5)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: James McDonald
Slot: TAB

Nature Strip (Pic: Bradley Photos)

Could you back Nature Strip with any great confidence? Certainly not. On the flip side, you’d be a brave punter to say that he couldn’t win. It’s been a far from ideal preparation for the enigmatic sprinter, recently crowned the horse of the year. When he gets the right set up, no horse in the country, even the world, could match him over 1200m. He needs to find his rhythm, build through his gears. The race will be won and lost for him in the first 300m. He is never the first horse into stride so drawing a ‘squeeze’ box potentially looks problematic. When he won the TJ Smith Stakes and VRC Classic, James McDonald had the luxury of leaving him alone for the first half of the race. Can win, but can’t back him at the price.

2.TREKKING (4)
Trainer: James Cummings
Jockey: Josh Parr
Slot: Max Whitby

There are two races which jump off the page when assessing the chances of Trekking here. His fast-finishing third in The TAB Everest last year where he clocked the quickest last 600m of the race (marginally in front of Santa Ana Lane) and when he paired off with Gytrash to win the Goodwood at Morphetville back in May. Significantly, in three of the past five races that the six-year-old has contested, they’ve been won by the leader, the latest being Pippie in the Moir Stakes over 1000m at Moonee Valley. When the speed is on, it’s game on, however. As we saw in this race 12 months ago, when it sets up for closers, there aren’t too many sprinters around that can match the finish of Trekking. Place chance.

3.CLASSIQUE LEGEND (6)
Trainer: Les Bridge
Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
Slot: Bon Ho

Of all twelve runners, there is an argument to be made that this brilliant grey gelding has had the most faultless preparation. It’s certainly the most conventional. The tradeoff for that is that he is hard in the market. Classique Legend produced a devastating last 200m to win The Shorts first up before travelling deep throughout in a fast-run Premier Stakes that saw Libertini breeze past him late. He ran a luckless sixth in The TAB Everest last year and has returned better again. It’s an identical preparation to last year’s for the lightly-raced five-year-old and Les Bridge has timed his campaign to perfection. Draws perfectly and has Kerrin McEvoy steering. He’s the bombproof option. Would be surprised if he isn’t in the top three.

4.SANTA ANA LANE (8)
Trainers: Anthony & Sam Freedman
Jockey: Sam Clipperton
Slot: Coolmore

The public knock on Santa Ana Lane is that his best days are behind him, and although he certainly isn’t getting any better at eight, is there enough evidence to confidently conclude that his days at the top level are done? He hasn’t won first up in his last 10 preparations (spanning four years) and his run in the Gilgai a fortnight ago was the equivalent what he has done in recent campaigns before exploding second up. His Randwick 1200m record exceptional, which largely coincides with his second up stats. Nature Strip appears to have been given the benefit of the doubt price-wise so why has Santa been brushed? An interesting way to tilt this market is to hypothetically suggest that all runners will produce their best. Santa Ana Lane would be second favourite. It’s a leap of faith but he looks big overs.

5.BEHEMOTH (2)
Trainer: David Jolly
Jockey: Nash Rawiller
Slot: The Star

The goliath South Australian sprinter has won two Group Ones at his last two starts, the Memsie and Sir Rupert Clarke, but it’s fair to say this five-year-old would need to go to another level again to win this. The son of All Too Hard has won four of his past five starts, with the defeat a fourth in the G1 Goodwood back in May behind Trekking and Gytrash. That’s the best line we can get on him going into this. He half missed the starts there before settling out the back and running home strongly to be beaten 2.3L. The soft draw gives Nash Rawiller the opportunity to cuddle him up on the fence and ride for luck late. Looks a couple of lengths off the top tier sprinters at the moment but his 1400m grounding will see him strong through the line.

6.BIVOUAC (10)
Trainer: James Cummings
Jockey: Glen Boss
Slot: Godolphin

Bivouac enjoys a pick after trackwork (Pic: Godolphin)

Boxed on bravely first up to run third in The Shorts having covered a stack of ground throughout. Interestingly, the last three races he has won have been when he has been able to camp on the leader’s shoulder before quickening in devastating fashion. The latest of those was the G1 Newmarket down the Flemington straight where he easily accounted for Gytrash, Tofane and Libertini. That was second up after a similarly inconclusive first up run in the Oakleigh Plate, on a track where it was near impossible to make ground out wide. Don’t like to get too caught up in barrier draws but can’t see it playing out well for him from 10. Does Glen Boss go back or forward? Could end up posted and it’s game over from there.

 

7.GYTRASH (7)
Trainer: Gordon Richards
Jockey: Jason Collett
Slot: Inglis

The ‘giant-killing’ chestnut has been quietly winning big races for 12 months now but he announced himself as a genuine Everest player with a breathtaking win in the Concorde Stakes, brushing straight past Nature Strip. The five-year-old is near unbeaten first up hence why his trainer Gordon Richards has taken the foot off the gas since then, electing to freshen him up for six weeks. The draw looks perfect and the flying Jason Collett does the steering. The only knock on the South Australian is his 1200m record (one from seven). In the Newmarket, William Reid and Goodwood, he has run very well, but just been found out slightly at the end of the trip. A high-pressure 1200m at Randwick could expose him but he’s too classy to dismiss.

8.EDUARDO (9)
Trainer: Joe Pride
Jockey: Rachel King
Slot: MiEverest

Somebody forgot to tell Eduardo that he is seven, because the tough-as-nails sprinter finds himself in career-best form. He was transferred to Joe Pride at the start of the spring and after winning the July Sprint and Missile Stakes, The TAB Everest became the target. He cemented his credentials with a courageous second in The Shorts behind Classique Legend. He lacks the brilliance of many of his rivals but makes up for it with ticker. His lion heart will see him run much better than his odds suggest. Jockey Rachel King gave the son of Host a spin in a recent Warwick Farm barrier trial and it was an exceptional piece of work, zipping around the 801m in very slick time.

9.DOLLAR FOR DOLLAR (1)
Trainer: Tony & Calvin McEvoy
Jockey: Tim Clark
Slot: Aquis

A last-minute inclusion for the Aquis slot after three-year-old Farnan was withdrawn. The eight-year-old is the field’s rank outsider and it’s hard to argue with that. That’s not to say that the son of High Chaparral doesn’t have a very important role to play in the make up of the speed picture in this year’s TAB Everest. His asset throughout his career has been the ability to put himself into races, make his own luck before proving hard to peg back. Was only beaten a length by Bohemoth in the Sir Rupert Clarke before he just missed in the Gilgai where Tofane and Santa Ana Lane finished fifth and sixth. A fast beginner, doubt Tim Clark wastes the inside draw with Dollar For Dollar and has a look for the early lead.

10.TOFANE (11)
Trainer: Michael Moroney
Jockey: Tommy Berry
Slot: Yulong Investments

Trainer Mike Moroney has had the luxury of timing Tofane’s preparation knowing her spot was already secured so I wouldn’t read too much into her failing to win first and second up. She’ll peak third up. There is a case to be made that she should have won the Gilgai, but that’s moot now. The five-year-old proved herself a genuine Group One sprinter over the autumn running a slashing third in the Galaxy (third up) with 51kg at Rosehill before producing the fastest last 200m split in the TJ Smith when fifth behind Nature Strip, this time at weight for age. That put the writing on the wall out to 1400m for the All Aged where she edged out Pierata. Moroney conceded during the week that he’d love the race to be 1300m.

11.LIBERTINI (12)
Trainer: Anthony Cummings
Jockey: Regan Bayliss
Slot: James Harron Bloodstock

Regan Bayliss and Libertini (Pic: Bradley Photos)

Libertini’s chances suffered a hammer blow when she was allocated barrier 12. That’s not to say she can’t overcome it but she goes from a $6 chance to a $10 chance in my eyes. The four-year-old recaptured her best in the Premier Stakes crushing her rivals a fortnight ago. It couldn’t have played out any better with Regan Bayliss jumping on the back of Classique Legend, who’d covered ground throughout, but she put him to the sword late. Libertini is now five from five on good tracks and four from five over the Randwick 1200m. Can she reproduce that career-best performance second up just two weeks later? If she does, she’s can win no doubt but go back to August 2019, and on the back of a similarly stunning Silver Shadow Stakes win first up she regressed to win the Furious by a narrow margin.

12.HAUT BRION HER (3)
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Brenton Avdulla
Slot: Three Bridges Thoroughbreds

Another intriguing piece to the speed puzzle. The five-year-old’s biggest weapon is her cruising speed, her ability to absorb pressure. We saw that first up from the daughter of Zoustar in the G2 Sheraco, resuming from just shy of a year on the sidelines with a near career-ending injury. She parked outside of the leader yet still found a kick to comfortably hold the mares. Jen Rules and Seasons filled the minors. Hardly Everest-winning form but it was the manner in which she did it. Forget he subsequent failure in the Golden Pendant when James McDonald had to make two runs on her from the wide draw and it told in the last 100m. I agree with the general consensus that she is a Group One winner in waiting but an Everest winner? Not yet.

TIPS:
4. SANTA ANA LANE
3. CLASSIQUE LEGEND
2. TREKKING
7. GYTRASH

Check out the fields and form for TAB Everest day at Randwick.

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