By Ray Hickson
Les Bridge fears no rival when it comes to Classique Legend.
A couple of weeks after he famously declared the grey the best horse he’s trained, and raised a few eyebrows in the process, Bridge said he sees no reason why his stable star can’t topple Nature Strip and emerge as the new TAB Everest favourite at Randwick on Saturday.
At the same time, the Group 2 $500,000 Premiere Stakes (1200m) is not Classique Legend’s grand final, nor Nature Strip’s for that matter, and Bridge is clearly comfortable where he’s sitting two weeks out from the main event.
“When you’re going for these races, I’ve been training 60 years and trained a lot of big winners, you just worry about your own horse and you can’t be worried about somebody else,’’ Bridge said.
“They are never easy to win but he hasn’t gone backwards I know that.
“He’s just one of those good horses, how could you not be confident in him.”
Classique Legend laid his TAB Everest cards on the table with a stunning first-up win in the Group 2 Shorts (1100m) on September 19 showing a dazzling turn of foot and an ability to overcome adversity.
He clocked a race best last 600m of 33.06 but it was his final 200m of 11.23 (Punter's Intelligence), two lengths faster than his opposition, that said he’s a force to be reckoned with in 2020.
Bridge said the five-year-old, $3.10 second favourite, was always going to have improvement from his first-up run and is on track to peak on October 17.
“I don’t know if I’m reading him wrong but I reckon he will improve even after Saturday,’’ he said.
“He’s done that well and that’s the way it was planned. To go into the Shorts just a bit underdone then be fairly fit and (this run) will top him off for the Everest.”
How much start Classique Legend will be conceding Nature Strip is the question Bridge finds it tough to answer.
He describes barrier seven in the eight horse field as tricky but at the same time has faith in the horse, and jockey Kerrin McEvoy, to handle whatever unfolds.
“There’s only the one turn, as long as you keep him balanced I’m not paranoid about draws,’’ he said.
“Tactics will come into it, I’ll just have to leave it to the jockey.
“He can do it either end, I think he is at his best when go quick and he can settle down like he did the other day but he can race up close too. That’s not a problem to him, he can handle wet or dry, he’s pretty foolproof.”
For his part, McEvoy said he can’t wait to get on Classique Legend’s back again.
Classique Legend wins the Shorts at Randwick on September 19
He said while his Everest chances don’t hinge on what the gelding produces in the Premiere he’d like to be putting pressure on Nature Strip, or whoever wins the race, if he’s not first past the post.
“You can look at it both ways, we’d like to think we aren’t far behind him if we do get beaten but we are going out there to give it a shake,’’ McEvoy said.
“It’ll be nice to know where you’re at. If (Nature Strip) has improved, we’ve improved.
“We’re going with all guns blazing knowing we are going to get there better on Everest Day in a couple of weeks time.
“He’s a big unit now and he’s the full article so this is his time to shine and I have full confidence in the horse.”
One way or another the top end of the TAB Everest market is in for a shake up on Saturday with Nature Strip on $3.50 and Classique Legend at $5.