By Ray Hickson
We’re going to learn plenty about where things stand for next month’s TAB Everest when potentially six of the confirmed runners clash in Saturday’s Group 2 $500,000 Bowermans Commercial Furniture Shorts (1100m) at Royal Randwick.
Only Classique Legend, last year’s Shorts and Everest winner, is missing from the early nominations after it was decided he needed a bit more time to be race fit following his recent trial win.
Both Redzel (2017) and Classique Legend (2020) have won the Shorts and gone on to claim the TAB Everest in the same year.
A glance over the nominations tells us there’s going to be nowhere to hide in this race and a strong tempo should be expected with barrier draws and track conditions crucial.
Let’s take a look at the contenders for the 2021 edition:
Adelong (Brad Widdup): For what was her biggest test until now, Adelong ran quite well in the Concorde given she was the one asked to sit outside Nature Strip in the run. She couldn’t sprint with him the way that race turned out and she boxed on okay to run fifth. Obviously there’s more depth there but if she strikes a soft track she won’t be disgraced.
Eduardo (Joe Pride): With his TAB Everest slot secured over the weekend it’s a big chance for Eduardo to make something of a statement. Barriers may be vital to him, he loves it wet so any rain wouldn’t bother, because in all but one of his starts for the Pride yard he’s settled first or second. The only time he hasn’t was in last year’s Shorts where he was trapped three wide on speed and went down a length to Classique Legend.
Gytrash (Gordon Richards & Damien Moyle): Dubbed a giant killer after claiming the scalps of Redzel and Nature Strip in his two first-up assignments in 2020, Gytrash takes a slightly different path to the Everest by arriving here. A year ago he beat Nature Strip in the Concorde then finished third in the Everest six weeks later. He’s been trialling as well as he usually does in the lead up and is one who would likely relish a genuine tempo. Not to be underestimated.
Handle The Truth (Keith Dryden): A confirmed runner in The Kosciuszko, he measured right up with a game fourth in the Concorde first-up from a spell and this race is likely a stepping stone to the $1.3m country feature on the Everest undercard. You’d imagine with a swarm of Everest runners in this field he may be outclassed but look for him to run well nonetheless.
Lost And Running (John O’Shea): We’ve all been waiting for this up and comer to step into the big dance and we have out first chance to see where he stands. A winner of six of his seven starts, the last a dominant Listed win in May, he’s earned the right to be on an Everest path. If his trials are any guide he’ll be a force, he downed the speedy Marway in his first then looked to be travelling strongly outside Classique Legend last week.
Masked Crusader (Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes): If race shape, even at this early stage, ever looked to suit a horse it’s this race and this horse. With so much speed you’d think Masked Crusader would be lobbing along behind them waiting to produce a burst. He beat inferior rivals first-up at Caulfield so this race will either confirm his standing in the market or put it in some doubt. Can be a bit slow away but that’s his only real fault.
Nature Strip (Chris Waller): To say the big fellow had a picnic first-up in the Concorde would be an understatement but it was an example of what Nature Strip can do when he’s allowed to be in control. We’ve seen what happens in the past when he isn’t allowed to dominate. Even in his TJ win, while he didn’t lead, he was always in control outside the leader. So things like the barrier draw could be significant for him and we might find out about how the spring 2021 version handles himself in a pressure race.
Rothfire (Robert Heathcote): Prior to the bad injury sustained in the Golden Rose last year, Rothfire was the horse many expected to be a real factor in the TAB Everest. A year on and having fully recovered he puts it all on the line. Handed a slot last weekend, he’s in the race and it’s time for us to see where he stands. His trials have been eye-catching and he ran good time in an exhibition gallop last weekend. He is the real X-Factor in this race.
September Run (Chris Waller): It surprised nobody to see this mare steaming home into third place when resuming at Moonee Valley two weeks ago but the big problem remains her record in Sydney, particularly at Randwick. Those things could keep her in Melbourne again, she was also nominated for the Concorde but didn’t run, and until she proves herself in the Sydney direction at this level she remains a risk.
Spaceboy (Gary Portelli): Led them up but couldn’t sustain it when beaten into ninth place behind Masked Crusader last time out and that makes it hard to see a turnaround on that horse let along factoring in the rest of the field. Honest sprinter who usually gives a sight in his races but likely out of his depth.
Wild Ruler (Peter & Paul Snowden): He may have lost his unbeaten Randwick record in the Concorde but there was nothing wrong with his effort in chasing Nature Strip home into second place. It’s this race that will tell us whether he’s an Everest hopeful or not. He doesn’t want a significantly wet track though. While he was beaten over two lengths first-up he faced an impossible task in a race that was a sprint home, in a more truly run race and with extra fitness he has the chance to be competitive.
Wisdom Of Water (Annabel Neasham): Another probably out of his depth in this field but there were signs in his first-up run, the same race as September Run, that he’s capable of winning a race or two this preparation. And while he’s raced well in each start for the stable he’d need a career peak to knock over this field.
Early TAB Betting (as at 12.30pm Monday):
$2.80 Nature Strip
$3.50 Masked Crusader
$5 Lost And Running
$6 Eduardo, Rothfire
$17 Wild Ruler
$26 September Run
$101 Adelong, Handle The Truth, Wisdom Of Water