By Ray Hickson
Kris Lees has done his job getting exciting import Mugatoo to Saturday’s Group 1 $750,000 Heineken Metropolitan Handicap (2400m) in A1 shape and jockey Kerrin McEvoy says it’s now up to him to give the six-year-old a faultless ride.
Nobody is under any misconception about how good Mugatoo has to be – and how good McEvoy’s ride has to be – if he is to carry 57k to victory at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Since weights turned metric in 1972 only Hayai (57.5kg) in 1984 has carried more to win, though the Lees-trained County Tyrone had 56.5kg in 2004 and that didn’t stop him.
Mugatoo handed Lees his first Newcastle Cup (2300m) last start as he swept to victory under 59kg, he was then penalised an extra 1kg for this race, after having a perfect run in midfield and McEvoy said that’s a good blueprint for the Group 1.
“There’s no doubt he stays, it’s just a matter of getting it right with him,’’ McEvoy said.
“We have the extra weight on our back but it’s important he’s drawn well and can get the right run.
“He’s not just a get back horse, he can hold a spot from a nice draw. He’s done it all well and Kris has geared his campaign around trying to win a Group 1 so this is a nice one for him.”
In two starts at 2400m in the autumn, Mugatoo was outpointed by Young Rascal in the Manion Cup then ran sixth at weight-for-age in the Tancred Stakes - the only two times he hasn't won since arriving in Australia.
McEvoy, who hasn’t won either a Metropolitan or TAB Epsom as yet, concedes running 2400m with 57kg under handicap conditions is a big ask for the $2.70 TAB favourite but certainly wouldn’t be swapping him.
“His last win was the best win in terms of a rating of a race, we have some handy stayers below him in the weights and that’s why we have got to get everything right,’’ McEvoy said.
“He was dominant the other day winning, he’s the class horse in the race so deserves to be favourite.”
While Mugatoo only strengthened his hold on the Metropolitan with a favourable draw the same can’t be said for McEvoy’s Epsom ride Probabeel and he’ll need to produce another gun steer if he’s to win the mile feature.
Probabeel, who was runner-up in the Flight Stakes at this meeting last year, will be out to match Kolding’s effort from 2019 in claiming the Bill Ritchie-Epsom double and McEvoy said 52.5kg gives her the chance from a weight perspective but barrier 17 makes things tricky.
“It’s a perfect weight for a mare who loves the mile,’’ McEvoy said.
“Randwick mile Group 1s are hard to win and are competitive so she is going to need the luck.
“She showed some adaptability when using that good draw the other day.
“It’s a bit of a wide gate but we’ll have to deal with that. If we can have a bit of luck she’s going to run a great race. Hopefully we can adapt on Saturday.”
History says wide barriers are no concern in the Group 1 $1m TAB Epsom (1600m) – to compare apples to apples, a classy four-year-old mare in Secret Admirer, carrying 52.5kg, jumped from gate 16 to win the 2011 edition.
Probabeel wins the Bill Ritchie at Randwick on September 19
Against that, Secret Admirer and Winx (2015) are the only two four-year-old mares to win an Epsom in over 40 years so the likes of Probabeel, Funstar, Colette and Vanna Girl have that statistic standing in their way.
Colette, last season’s ATC Oaks winner, is being kept to shorter trips this spring by trainer James Cummings with a view to targeting the $7.5m Golden Eagle (1500m) at the end of October.
The mare has been close up in both starts as a four-year-old and was beaten under fourth lengths by Kolding in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) two weeks ago.
She drops 4.5kg into the Epsom and Cummings said she’s ready to produce her best.
“We have preferred to keep her campaign on the light side, with the Golden Eagle her main spring target,’’ he said.
“She has pleased us with her two performances this preparation and takes on a major mile handicap with a light impost. She appears to be well placed in an open race.”