Comment by Ray Hickson
The trek to The TAB Everest reaches a crucial juncture as races in two states are about to give us the best guide yet to which sprint star is best placed to take the lion's share of the $10 million purse.
Contenders can rise and there's a real chance one or two may fall, leaving slot holders searching for a late replacement.
So who is going to come out of this weekend in the best position? Those that are racing or those tucked away in their boxes?
Five of the 10 expected Everest runners will be playing from home until the big race: Redzel, Deploy, Vega Magic, Redkirk Warrior and Brave Smash.
Re-live the running of The Shorts at Randwick - September 16
Another five have their final lead ups in the Premiere Stakes at Randwick on Saturday and across a couple of races at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
They are: Chautauqua ($5 TAB) - nobody missed his Shorts run and the amazing sectionals he reeled off. He only has to repeat the effort to remain favourite, regardless of if he wins.
English ($13) - game run first-up after sitting wide. Needs to back that up and prove she's not just an Autumn horse but her credentials say she's capable.
Fell Swoop ($26) - mini D-day for his prep. If he can improve a length or so second-up it sets him up nicely considering his TJ runs.
She Will Reign ($8) – she’s been trialling impressively enough and doesn't need to win the Moir but must run very well to warrant her high place in the market.
Houtzen ($17) - if the Everest wasn't the aim her first-up run was acceptable. However, she needs to beat the fillies at Moonee Valley in good style to be any chance.
As it stands two slots remain. Three potentials have been heavily on the radar for a couple of weeks and get their chance to impress slot holders.
In Her Time's impressive barrier trial win - September 19
In Her Time (Premiere, $51) - Stradbroke runner-up and she showed she's ready for a big first-up run with a booming trial win recently.
Clearly Innocent (Premiere, $26) - Group 1 winner whose presence in the Everest would be a pat on the back for the Country Championship concept. Reported to be working the house down at Newcastle.
Russian Revolution (Moir, $11) - has a win over Redzel earlier this year and returned with a nice win beating Houtzen at the Valley. To be frank, I'm surprised he's not already in the field.
Speaking of those classy sprinters who have been overlooked for slots to this point, I can't figure out why there's been no public interest in Impending ($101).
He's the Stradbroke winner and in the autumn he raced well as a three-year-old against the likes of Chautauqua on unsuitable heavy tracks.
And Spieth ($51), dual Group 1 placed and has the sort of finish that would see him competitive if at his best. His Concorde run wasn't bad in the circumstances but he's dropped right off the radar.
It's been a fascinating game of chess between slot holders for the inaugural Everest but it's not over yet.
And, once it is all over, it'll be just as intriguing to discover what they've learned with a view to the 2018 tournament.