By Ray Hickson
Chris Waller has one hand on a fifth Epsom Handicap according to TAB’s pre-nominations market released on Thursday with exciting galloper Funstar sitting atop betting on the feature Randwick spring mile.
A four-time winner of the Group 1 TAB Epsom, including last year with Kolding, Waller is no stranger to claiming the $1 million with a lightly raced four-year-old mare.
Funstar is the $8 Epsom favourite ahead of boom Queenslander Alligator Blood and classy Kiwis Melody Belle and Probabeel at $11.
TAB’s Glenn Munsie said parallels between Funstar and champion mare Winx, who won the Epsom in 2015, are hard to ignore given what the rising four-year-old achieved at three.
“I know it’s a long bow but we did use Winx as a bit of a template here with Funstar,’’ Munsie said.
“Both early four-year-old mares looking for their second Group 1 win after competing at the top level as a filly.
“Funstar looks an ideal Epsom chance after testing the water against the mares at her last run in the Queen Of The Turf before spelling.”
The strength of next season’s four-year-olds can be seen in the quartet sitting on the $15 line – Doncaster placegetter Brandenburg, Hawkesbury Guineas winner Dawn Passage, multiple stakes winner Rubisaki and WA star Superstorm.
“It’s an interesting top end of the market basically dominated by what will be four-year-olds at the time of the race,’’ Munsie said.
“Melody Belle is the only non three-year-old in the top eight as we release it.”
Waller also won his fourth Group 1 $750,000 Heineken 3 Metropolitan (2400m) last year with WA stayer Come Play With Me and, as you’d expect, has plenty of talent to point at the race again.
Munsie said framing an early market for the staying feature was a tougher exercise but Waller’s mare Verry Elleegant and the Hawkes trained Master Of Wine, second and fourth in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, picked themselves.
They share the top at $8 from an exciting bunch including ATC Oaks winner Colette, Frank Packer Plate winner Kinane and boom imports Mugatoo and Shared Ambition all at $11.
“The Metropolitan has more of a mix about it and is always more difficult as you try and forecast where the stayers will spend their time and efforts in the spring,” he said.
“No better starting point than Master Of Wine and Verry Elleegant as the established quality but once again promoting the three-year-olds in Kinane and Colette.
“Throw in Kris Lees’ import in Mugatoo and they become the fresh blood in the staying ranks.”
Both the TAB Epsom and Heineken 3 Metropolitan are run at Royal Randwick on October 3.