The Everest providing sorely needed context for our sprint races

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    The Everest is proving a great success. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

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    The Everest is in its debut season as Racing NSW attempts to shake up the spring carnival, and the pecking order is being established.

    Five of the top ten horses in betting were on display at Moonee Valley and Rosehill on Saturday.

    Starting in Sydney, we saw boom colts Menari and Pariah taking each other on in the Run to the Rose. They’ve got Golden Rose aspirations to fulfil before potentially hitting the Everest, and the first round went to the Gerald Ryan-trained Menari.

    Menari won the battle, but does that mean he’s going to win the war?

    The horse was impressive – a big, powerful colt putting in a big, powerful performance to win the race without giving anything else a chance. But as good as the horse was, Josh Parr won the race on him with a faultless riding performance.

    Aggressive out of the gates, Parr had Menari sitting second in the run, and nothing else was a chance from there once they entered the straight. Shinn was a bit more passive on Pariah in the early stages and wanted a forward position from his good barrier but was happy to take a sit behind the speed where his horse was comfortable.

    Menari sat a length and a half in front of Pariah during the race and finished a length and a half in front of him. If we swap the barriers and swap the rides, would Menari have been able to haul Pariah in?

    Pariah will meet Menari a kilo better in their next two meetings if both go to the Golden Rose and Everest and yet will likely be three times the price. Based on Saturday, I’m not yet convinced there is that much between them.

    Russian Revolution won a hot McEwen Stakes in a field of six quality sprinters, extending away after camping off the back of Heatherly.

    The best part of Russian Revolution’s race was his stamina at the end of the 1000-metre race after racing on the speed, running the quickest last 200 metres and powering through the line to put a space on his rivals.

    Let’s not forget, earlier this year he won the Group 1 Galaxy, beating fellow Everest contenders Redzel, Fell Swoop and English, and would be a more than worthy entrant if he takes a slot.

    Houtzen lost some admirers in the McEwen Stakes, even if Craig Williams didn’t do her any favours having her three wide in a six-horse field and under a bit of riding for most of the race.

    Williams was understandably aggressive out of the gates given Houtzen has made her name as a leader. In fact, this was the first time she hasn’t led in a race, as she simply didn’t have the speed to match Heatherly and Russian Revolution even with the light weight.

    Perhaps Houtzen was having an off day or she didn’t enjoy her first anti-clockwise run or perhaps didn’t totally handle Moonee Valley. Either way, question marks now surround what she’s capable of, even if she did show heart by rallying for third when it looked like she was going to be beaten ten lengths last at the top of the straight.

    Brave Smash is on the short list for the Everest place held by the ATC and won a listed race at Moonee Valley against a few smart types. He wasn’t as eye-catching as when running Vega Magic to half a length first up but showed toughness to win after being three wide with no cover for the duration.

    Brave Smash certainly tired late after moving into the race with ease entering the straight, and the question is whether the tough run took a toll. He was already looking for further than 1200 metres – or is he a better horse being ridden back in the field and saved for one run?

    Three-year-olds have the Golden Rose, Caulfield Guineas, Thousand Guineas and Coolmore Stakes to give context to their performances in the lead-ups.

    Stayers clearly have the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups to fulfil the same role. The middle-distance gallopers have the Cox Plate, although many will be looking to avoid Winx this year.

    There are a large amount of Group sprints in both Melbourne and Sydney, and the Everest is giving them a focus and context in the early part of the spring, as the contenders take various paths to the big day.

    This context is something that has been sorely lacking in our sprint races, and even some Group 1s fall into anonymity as the natural focus of the racing media and public interest is on the Cups and the Cox.

    The Everest is a standing beacon for our sprinters this spring. Already it is a success.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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