The Everest: The most comprehensive preview on the internet

Cameron Rose Columnist

By , Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Avdulla had a poor ride with Chautauqua at The Everest. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

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    Glitz. Glamour. Sydney. 12 horses. $10 million. One Everest.

    The biggest financial prize in the history of Australian racing is up for grabs on Saturday, with the inaugural running of the Everest.

    When the slot race was announced earlier this year, reactions were mixed. Some people loved it. Some people were sure it would fail. Many were uneasy at how it would fit into the racing landscape at this time of year.

    Already, it is a success. Never before has there been a build-up like it to a sprint race. Debate has raged for weeks and months about who the slot-holders should get to run for them. Interest has been steadily increasing.

    Finally, we’re here. Let’s look at the runners.

    1. CHAUTAUQUA
    In the post-Black Caviar era, Chautauqua is the finest sprinter Australia has produced. The great mare retired in April 2013, and the Grey Flash made his debut six months later. Within a year of that, he was already laying claim to her throne.

    In April 2015 Chautauqua won his first TJ Smith Stakes, stamping the Randwick 1200m course as his playground for the first time. He has defended that TJ Smith title twice already, winning the race again in 2016 and 2017, in among three other Group 1 wins.

    His style is breathtaking, and rarely for the faint of heart. We know he’ll get back. We know he’ll be last. We’ll know he’ll be charging faster than anyone else in the field late in the game. What we don’t know is if he’ll get there.

    Chautauqua kicked off this campaign in fine style with a closing seventh in The Shorts, only beaten 2.2 lengths, and followed it up with a plainer run in the Premiere Stakes when beaten 2.8. He was struggling to keep up at the top of the straight in that latest run, and was never a winning threat despite producing a finishing burst that carried him into sixth.

    He’ll be fitter now, obviously peaking for this race, but most of his competitors will be too, and he already might be looking for further. He’s got some work to do, the champ, but it will take a brave soul to write him off, even with 400m to go on the day.

    Chautauqua

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    2. VEGA MAGIC
    Vega Magic has come a long way in a short time. This time last year, the highlight on his resume was three wins in a row at benchmark 72 level in Perth. Even six months ago, he looked like a handy sprinter that might be able to mix it in the eastern states, at the lower black type levels.

    Now, he’s second favourite in the richest sprint race seen anywhere in the world.

    Transferred from the WA stable of Sean Casey to the Hayes stable at Euroa, Vega Magic hasn’t been defeated since. First-up he took out the Goodwood in Adelaide, his only autumn start.

    His spring campaign kicked off in the Regal Roller Stakes at Caulfield, where he lumped 60.5kgs to victory. Second there was fellow Everest competitor, Brave Smash, getting 6.5kg’s off him. In third place, some four and a half lengths behind, was Santa Ana Lane. We saw that horse take out the Group 1 Rupert Clarke Stakes a fortnight ago.

    Vega Magic then came out and dominated the Memsie Stakes from the front, against the established pattern of the day, recording his first Group 1 weight-for-age victory.

    Vega Magic will put himself in the race, with the aim to sit just behind the speed being set by Redzel and Houtzen, although if there’s one horse that maps to be posted three wide the trip, it is him. Even if this is the case, the rest of the field are going to have to be at their best to hold out this powerhouse when the post is near.

    3. REDZEL
    Redzel has gone from being one of the most improved sprinters in the land to one of the best, and brings in a four race winning streak to the Everest.

    He was just edged into second in the Challenge Stakes and the Galaxy in the autumn, but since then recorded his first Group 1 win, in the Doomben 10,000, and has been the standard setter in the Sydney sprinting ranks this spring.

    Redzel is similar to Chautauqua in that we know what he going to do every time, but opposite in that he does it from the front. Regardless of how much speed or pressure is being applied, he races right on the speed and just keeps on going.

    His last performance, winning the Shorts, was his most impressive. He left a good field in his wake that day despite having no peace up front, and stamped himself as a worthy Everest contender.

    Redzel will go forward and either lead or sit just behind it, depending on how fast Houtzen breaks from the inside barrier. It is likely that he’ll want to sit on her flanks, worry her out of it, and then try to hold out all others.

    4. REDKIRK WARRIOR
    There are many interesting paths that the Everest runners have taken to get here to the Randwick 1200m course, but none is more extraordinary than Redkirk Warrior.

    His racing career started with a debut win over 2000m in the UK, was followed by a stint in Hong Kong where he picked up a win over the Sha Tin mile, and now here he is in the top handful of chances in the richest sprint race ever run.

    Recalibrated as a sprinter when he arrived into the care of David Hayes, he has run half a dozen times on Australian soil. Two of these have been awesome performances that must see him taken seriously on Saturday.

    Redkirk Warrior smashed a hundred year old record by winning the Newmarket Handicap first-up in the autumn, a victory which made the racing world stand up and notice.

    First-up this campaign, he once again bolted in up the Flemington straight when taking out the Bobbie Lewis. The form behind him from that day has been a bit mixed, but he’s a beautiful looking type and his grounding over further distances can only help him in what is sure to be a last-man-standing affair.

    Barrier three should see him settling somewhere around the second or third pair in the run, either on the fence or even outside She Will Reign if that filly jumps cleanly.

    5. CLEARLY INNOCENT
    Clearly Innocent is another wonderful story, in a race full of them. From Highway Handicaps and Country Championships all the way to highest peak of them all, the Everest.

    This horse truly came of age in the Brisbane winter, winning his first Group 1 at Eagle Farm on a heavy track, before proving it was no fluke in the Stradbroke Handicap on the dry. He finished third that day, carrying the clear top weight, and arguably would have won if he had drawn a kinder marble.

    Clearly Innocent is one of only three horses in the race hitting it second-up, which has been a winning formula several times in the past for him. He ran well first-up in the Premiere Stakes, and while he wasn’t as eye-catching as English in the run to the post, he really started to attack the line in his last 100m.

    He’s going to have to find a couple of lengths to win this race, and will have to pass a lot of good horses from a likely position at the tail of the field, but he’s a player that can make his presence felt at the business end if things go his way.

    6. DEPLOY
    Deploy has come from nowhere to be one of the most winningest horses in the country over the last 12 months, a time in which he has recorded seven wins.

    He’s two from two this prep, with wins in the Show County and Theo Marks. This is admittedly the B-grade lead-up form in terms of opposition, but he’s broken two track records in doing it. In the Show County, he was able to box seat and then show great fight in the straight on a day of fast times.

    The Theo Marks was Deploy’s standout performance though, which booked him a spot in the Everest. He took the field along in the lead, but then extended in the straight like he had an outboard motor fitted to his back. Running into second, four lengths in arears, was Chris Waller’s star on the rise Egg Tart. No wonder Waller was happy to give his slot to the Gerald Ryan-trained sprinter.

    This is clearly the hardest field Deploy has ever faced, but he’s tough, honest and versatile, which are great attributes when it comes to getting some prizemoney in a race like this. Josh Parr will be looking for a box seat position, ready to peel out and produce when the whips are cracking.

    7. FELL SWOOP
    Poor old Fell Swoop. He’s been forever the bridesmaid at Group 1 level with five placings, but never the bride. 2016 was his best year, racing against the best and only just getting shaded time and time again, but 2017 has seen him lose two or three lengths.

    At his best, Fell Swoop has filled the trifecta with Chautauqua and English in the last two TJ Smith’s, highlighting what he’s capable of. But this year he has had six starts with only one top five finish, which was when third in the TJ.

    Once again, Tye Angland has an awkward barrier to contend with, and he’ll have to decide what will give his horse the best chance. Pressing forward could see him caught in a speed battle with more talented horses and leave him with no petrol. Too far back, and he won’t be able to peel off the sectionals to match it with the quicker sprinters.

    It’s hard to make a genuine case for Fell Swoop winning, but hopefully he brings his A-game for connections.

    8. BRAVE SMASH
    Brave Smash is the slot-elect for the Australian Turf Club, a former Japanese miler that doesn’t appear an obvious fit for this lucrative 1200m sprint.

    Transferred to Darren Weir, he comes into this race off the back of three solid runs on Australian soil, but none of which that indicate he is capable of climbing Everest and defeating all of his opposition.

    The first-up run of Brave Smash was his most visually impressive, taking inside runs from back in the field to charge at Vega Magic but just falling short despite carrying 6.5kg’s less. Second-up was a grinding win at Moonee Valley after being wide on the speed. Third-up he was just out-gunned by Bons Away despite having every possible chance.

    To be fair to Brave Smash, he’s twice had Santa Ana Lane (subsequent Group 1 Rupert Clarke winner) and Keen Array (subsequent Group 2 Gilgai Stakes winner) behind him this prep, so there is form to back him up. It is hard to see him beating Vega Magic home at level weights though, let alone all other fancied opposition.

    9. ENGLISH
    What to make of English? We know she’s talented, and possesses one of the sharpest short sprints in the game. She has only ever raced against the best, and always acquits herself well. Only once in her career has she raced outside of Group 1 or Group 2 company, and that was when effortlessly winning her maiden.

    But, she has won only one of her last 11 starts, and started $6.50 or less in eight of them. She has quietly become that most despised of thoroughbreds – a money-muncher.

    English has been beaten a combined length and a half in the last two TJ Smith’s behind Chautauqua, so she is right there at the pointy end of the conversation when it comes to Australia’s best sprinters but she tends to need everything to play out perfectly. When it does, she makes them beat her.

    She’ll have to jump from the widest barrier, and Blake Shinn may have a plan for all three options – forward, mid-field or back, depending on the speed being set in the early stages. English is more devastating when ridden cold, and they might be best served by settling back and hoping for a genuine speed to be set.

    10. SHE WILL REIGN
    She Will Reign is the most esteemed of the three fillies in Everest, with two Group 1 wins on her resume, but is also the most lightly raced with only six starts to her name.

    She was a dominant Golden Slipper winner in the autumn, but the question is always whether they can back it up at three. For any filly to beat the older sprinters at WFA is a sign of special talent, but for them to do it at Group 1 level in their first run as a three year old, as she did in the Moir Stakes two weeks ago, is extraordinary.

    She Will Reign dawdled a little out of the gates in the Moir, and frankly never looked comfortable around the Moonee Valley circuit. But once they straightened, she simply blew them away in 150m of straight line speed.

    She Will Reign passes the post for a win.(AAP Image/David Moir)

    There was nothing in the Moir Stakes win that didn’t suggest she’d be better off second-up, at spacious Randwick, and over 1200m, and she deserves her favouritism in the Everest.

    Barrier two will see Corey Brown take an inside position, but it’s a matter of how far back he wants to get. Does he want to use the light weight of the filly allowance and settle forward, or stay out of the hustle and bustle of the early lead and let his filly find her feet? More likely it will be the latter, smothered away on the inside, and he’ll have to hope Houtzen doesn’t fall back in his lap to make life difficult in the straight.

    11. HOUTZEN
    Houtzen is a Queensland filly that carried a boom through her two-year-old season, taking out the $2 million Magic Millions on the Gold Coast at her third start. She’s no stranger to big money races.

    Her bubble burst as favourite in the Golden Slipper, where she suffered her first loss, but has been aimed at the Everest from a long way out.

    Houtzen returned with a plainish effort in the McEwen Stakes at the start of September. Similar to She Will Reign in the Moir, she was back in the field and uncomfortable at the Valley before rallying late, but the difference was she never threatened winning.

    Her second-up run was also at the Valley, in the Champagne Stakes, which she won by a length, but it didn’t exactly scream “back me in the Everest”.

    Jeff Lloyd should boot Houtzen up from the inside gate and either lead the field or sit just behind Redzel, but it’s hard to see her lasting. A finish in the bottom half of the field is almost certain.

    12. TULIP
    Tulip is the least worthy entry in the field, and it will take a special training performance to get her anywhere near the big money.

    She did run third to She Will Reign in the Golden Slipper, albeit beaten five lengths on a heavy track, and pecked around the edges of a couple of other two-year-old Group 1 races.

    Tulip resumed with a nice run at Moonee Valley carrying penalties, and then was okay again behind Alizee when up in Sydney for the Tea Rose, but it’s hard to see her threatening the winning post in this event.

    Selections: 1.Vega Magic 2.She Will Reign 3.Redzel 4.English

    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.