By Ray Hickson
Invincible Star versus Redzel - it's the first big pointer to The Everest and it happens at Randwick on Saturday.
The latest of the 10 horses so far confirmed for the $13 million race tackles the defending champion in the Group 3 $160,000 Concorde Stakes (1000m) and leave it to Invincible Star's co-trainer Gai Waterhouse to sum up the clash.
"It's almost a mini-Everest, isn't it,'' she said.
"I think she is shaping up super, I can't see why she won't be the horse to beat in the race. She's pretty well ready to go.''
Invincible Star, to be ridden by James McDonald, hasn't been seen on the racetrack since she ran second to Merchant Navy in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes last spring but she's been a star at the barrier trials in the past month.
She managed to outgun the speedy Super Too in her first hit-out then put almost 10 lengths on her rivals, which included Saturday's trial winner Zousain, on Randwick's Kensington track on August 13.
Waterhouse said slot holder GPI Racing has taken a leap of faith in the mare, with only five starts in her career, by locking her in prior to racing this preparation.
Invincible Star wins her Randwick trial by a big space on August 13
"I think it's a wonderful thing to think a mare that is so lightly raced has been able to get in,'' she said.
"For the slot holder to be so admiring of her to want to have her in the slot speaks to her credentials because she's by far the most lightly raced of all the horses in the Everest.
"But she's such a lovely mare, so honest and has such amazing cruising speed.''
Cast your mind back 12 months and the Concorde kicked off Redzel's charge to Everest glory.
The now six-year-old showed he is on track with a strong trial win with the blinkers on at Rosehill last Monday, leading throughout, and he is a significant measuring stick for Invincible Star to show her wares against.
Redzel is the $6 second favourite with TAB for The Everest while Invincible Star is on the $15 line.
Waterhouse said it's likely Invincible Star will complete her preparation for the Concorde at home at Randwick after heading to Canterbury to work last Wednesday.
As for where her next step is towards October 13, Waterhouse said what unfolds on Saturday will have a bit to say about that.
Bear in mind the Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable also has English aimed at The Everest and she's due to resume in the Group 2 The Shorts (1100m) on September 15.
Meanwhile, three more Everest runners kick off their bids in Melbourne on Saturday with Vega Magic (James Harron slot) taking on the likes of Kementari and Happy Clapper in the Group 1 Memsie Stakes, and Santa Ana Lane (Inglis slot) and Brave Smash (Chris Waller slot) resuming in The Heath 1100m.
Current favourite Trapeze Artist ($4.50) returns at Rosehill on Saturday week in the Theo Marks, Shoals also has her first run back on the same in the McEwen Stakes at Moonee Valley while international runner U S Navy Flag is due to arrive in Sydney around September 22 and In Her Time won't race until the Premiere Stakes two weeks before The Everest.
Two slots remain in The Everest, owned by the Australian Turf Club and the Max Whitby/Neil Werrett group, with under seven weeks remaining until the race.