By Ray Hickson
Kerrin McEvoy is keen to ride his own race on Redzel in Saturday’s fascinating Group 2 $500,000 Hyland Race Colours Challenge Stakes (1000m) at Randwick but says he won’t be afraid to shut the door on Nature Strip if given the opportunity.
The dual Everest champion and the nation’s most polarising sprinter have the inside two barriers in the Challenge and McEvoy says what happens when the gates crash back will be pivotal.
“It’s chock a block full of speed in the race so it’s going to be an interesting first section of the race,’’ McEvoy said.
“If (Nature Strip) gets out on level terms then he has the inside running, if he doesn’t get out quickly and I can get the front then so be it.
“You need to have a couple of different scenarios in your head and it depends how they break from the stalls.’’
Nature Strip was the $1.90 TAB favourite for the Challenge on Friday with Redzel the $4.80 second elect as the seven-year-old chases his second win in the Group 2 dash.
Redzel won the Challenge in 2018 and had it not been for 0.1 length defeats to English in 2017 and Ball Of Muscle last year he’d be unbeaten in six attempts at the Randwick 1000m.
McEvoy said Redzel’s effort in running second in the Group 1 Lightning Stakes at Flemington first-up, where he was run down by Gytrash with Nature Strip back in fourth place, proved he still has what it takes.
“He put up a great showing and being an older horse I think it is important he gets this sort of ground,’’ he said.
“We’re obviously a quick horse but we want to be comfortable early and coming home sharp. We are on a horse than loves the ground and he can still run quick time on rain affected ground.’’
There’ll be plenty of attention on boom three-year-old Castelvecchio in the Group 1 $1m Mostyn Copper Randwick Guineas (1600m) and McEvoy is expecting the colt to come into his own following a pleasing first-up run two weeks ago.
Castelvecchio clocked the fastest last 200m (11.62, Punter's Intelligence) of the Hobartville Stakes (1400m) in finishing sixth and needs to feature in the finish to hold his place in the betting ($8 fourth favourite) for the Group 1 $4m Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) in a month.
He was equal favourite at $4.60 with Shadow Hero in TAB’s Randwick Guineas market on Friday.
“It was definitely a pass mark first-up run on similar sort of ground to what he will get on Saturday,’’ McEvoy said.
“You’d like to think we can go closer to winning on Saturday than his first-up run.
“It’s a race full of quality opposition, everyone is second-up so they are all going to be improving. I’m sure that we can be really winding up and finishing strongly.’’
Nature Strip has a shocker. pic.twitter.com/CywArzTVJG
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) February 15, 2020
McEvoy, still looking to lock in a Golden Slipper mount, rides Golden Gift winner Dame Giselle in the Group 2 $300,000 Yarraman Park Reisling Stakes (1200m) and Barbaric in the Group 2 $300,000 UNSW Todman Stakes (1200m), if he runs there instead of the Black Opal.
Dame Giselle was beaten as an odds-on favourite when she resumed in the Lonhro Plate (1000m) at Randwick three weeks ago and watching from afar McEvoy said he expects the filly to improve.
“I wasn’t riding there that day but it was a bit inside and on speed, she settled back and came out to make her run,’’ he said.
“She made that run at them and it’s fair to say she might have levelled out the last furlong and will improve going into this race.’’
The Snowden-trained filly sits at $11 in TAB’s ever changing market for the $3.5m Longines Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m) on March 21.