By Brad Gray
Daniel O’Sullivan, a professional punter and partner in The Rating Bureau (TRB), believes Shoals is the horse to beat in this year’s running of The TAB Everest.
“Obviously it is a very even and open race with a stack of potential winners. What is almost certain though, is that this race will be a tough test of 1200m in the conditions, so late strength looks important,” O’Sullivan said.
“I didn't give Shoals much hope in the race a few months back, but I have to believe what I saw in the Premiere, including the substance through her speed and sectional measures. Her last start rating is good enough to win this race or at worst be fighting out the finish.
“She covered extra ground around the bend and then finished with a very fast last 400m, hitting the line powerfully. She's proven up to 1600m so late strength will definitely be an asset for her in this race and from the barrier she'll be able to settle much closer.”
Santa Ana Lane is in the mix off his G2 Premiere Stakes victory but O’Sullivan doesn’t see Ben Melham being afforded the opportunity to slip along the inside, which is how Santa Ana Lane has won his three Group Ones.
“He ran a rating in the Premiere that could see him win this and wet is certainly no problem. It's worth noting though that he had the dream run last start, winning without going around a horse.”
The “x-factor” for O’Sullivan in the $13 million feature is Kris Lees’ three-year-old colt Graff, currently $19 with TAB Fixed Odds.
“He's the one with the best chance of running to a new peak. If he can do that in this race, it's likely to bring him up to a level that can be very competitive and even be right in the finish. I think he's the best long shot,” he said.
Of the rest, O’Sullivan can see Vega Magic bouncing back but the query is the wet track while In Her Time’s lack of early speed could bring about her undoing.
“Vega Magic has a near career peak performance on Soft 6 but the Caulfield track that day was perhaps a little better and a long way from the conditions we are likely to get at Randwick on Saturday,” said O’Sullivan.
“In Her Time couldn't muster in the Premiere, but benefited when those in front of her stayed off the fence. She won't get that luxury here if she can't gather speed early from her barrier and will face a more difficult task. She can run very well and a win wouldn't surprise but she'll need everything to go right.”
Much has been made of Trapeze Artist’s third up form, which includes a Golden Rose romp and devastating TJ Smith Stakes win, but O’Sullivan questions just how well the four-year-old has returned.
“He will be fitter here and I expect him to rate better, but he doesn't look like he's going well enough to get back to that big TJ Smith spike and is reportedly not at his best on heavy, even though he can get through it okay,” he said.