By Ray Hickson
The Premiere Stakes has been around almost half a century and started life as a 1300m race at Rosehill in 1972 though for all but four of its renewals has been run at 1200m.
Until 2009 the race was held in August and just two years later moved to Randwick where it now serves as essentially the last chance to impress any remaining slot holders for the TAB Everest.
With two confirmed TAB Everest runners, the top two in the market as it happens, Nature Strip and Classique Legend clashing in the 2020 edition it’ll serve as a salivating preview for the main event on October 17.
But there’s also a few slots up for grabs so there’s an opportunity for a horse like Libertini, Standout or Fasika to press their case for selection.
Santa Ana Lane won the race in 2018 then a year ago the Premiere was won by Brutal, who upstaged Classique Legend and beat him into third place, but he didn’t take a spot in the Everest with connections opting to run in the Sydney Stakes on Everest day where he finished third.
Brutal wins the 2019 Premiere Stakes
Who are the main contenders for the 2020 edition?
Nature Strip (Chris Waller) – It’s safe to say his favouritism for the TAB Everest goes on the line after his first-up defeat in the Concorde Stakes and his subsequent barrier trial dramas. He threw James McDonald in a trial on September 21 then seven days later, as he was required to trial again, he jumped okay then slipped so settled at the back. We all know how brilliant he is when he’s allowed to get into a rhythm and if that happens he’ll take beating.
Classique Legend (Les Bridge) – Time has been this talented grey’s biggest asset and he showed he’s a force to be reckoned with when he smoked his rivals first-up in The Shorts, his dazzling turn of foot on display over the final 200m. How he fares against Nature Strip in a race that might not suit Classique Legend as much will tell us a lot but there’s no doubting he’s a better horse than 12 months ago and that makes him dangerous.
Standout (Gerald Ryan & Sterling Alexiou) – His was something of a hidden run in the Shorts after a slightly tardy start saw him settle a lot further back than everyone expected. To be beaten 1.9 lengths was a game effort, though the winner came off his back after being held up, and he will no doubt be better for the run. Capable of sitting a lot closer in his races and if he can do that then he’s in with a chance to impress.
Libertini (Anthony Cummings) – If there’s a horse out there capable of forcing their way into an Everest at the last minute it’s this mare and she’s always a gun when fresh. A year ago she was being talked about as a contender when she ran 1:07.93 to win the Silver Shadow over the Randwick 1200m and she wound up that prep with a Group 1 placing. Fair to say she didn’t come up in the autumn but she’s trialled strongly and will be there to make a statement.
Fasika (Joe Pride) – In five starts at Randwick this mare hasn’t finished worse than third and that was in the Group 1 All Aged at weight-for-age so we know she has the class to make an impact at this level. She was disappointing on face value when beaten as a short priced favourite in the Sheraco Stakes at Rosehill but everything leading into that run said she’d come back as well as ever. She did beat Gytrash in a trial and it’ll be interesting to see how she measures up.
Kementari (James Cummings) – If the enigma that is Kementari turns up in the Premiere it’ll make for some popcorn viewing. Since returning to racing as a gelding he hasn’t been afforded the best of luck but ran some sharp sectionals early in the preparation and has kept a low profile at the trials. His best is good enough and this prep will tell us if he can be competitive at the top level once more.
Early TAB Betting (as at 2.50pm Monday):
$1.80 Nature Strip
$3.50 Classique Legend
$11 Libertini, Standout
$15 Deprive, Greyworm, Kementari
$51 Handle The Truth
Other stats (since 1990):
Favourites: 12 (shortest priced Joanne 2/7 in 1991)
Longest priced winner: $51 Shania Dane (2005)
Mares: 10 (latest In Her Time 2017)
Current trainers: John Hawkes 4, Chris Waller 3, Gai Waterhouse 2, Joe Pride 2.
Current jockeys: Glen Boss 3, Tim Clark 2, Blake Shinn 2.