Without a Fight completed the rare Caulfield Cup-Melbourne Cup double on Tuesday as star jockey Mark Zahra went back-to-back in the big one after…
The Everest has become Australia’s best horse race and has shown Australian racing why it needs to get with the times.
It would be considered blasphemous by most horse racing purists to talk up a restricted sprint race ahead of time honoured events like the Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate, but the fact is The Everest is now Australia’s most relevant elite race.
We are no longer a nation that breeds and trains horses for a two-mile race on the first Tuesday in November.
Australia is a country that loves sprinters. We breed them, we race them young and then we repeat the process until we get a good one.
Owners don’t want to spend thousands on a horse, have it trained for more than a year and then find out it can’t win a maiden at Manangatang.
Most sprinters come on early. There’s always a race for a sprinter. If you can’t win at Rosehill you can go to Kembla Grange. If you can’t win there you can go to Muswellbrook.
If Muswellbrook is too hard, you can find a buyer in Mount Isa and they can race the horse there at non-TAB meetings on the dirt.
If you invest in a stayer that’s not up to it, you’re probably looking for a bright-eyed child at a pony club to take it off your hands.
While we’ve only had one rendition of The Everest, it’s fair to say the momentum is well and truly building for this year’s edition, to be raced on October 13.
I was up in the middle of the night on Saturday, flicking between the races at Newmarket, Wimbledon and a third-place World Cup playoff, when Aidan O’Brien up on my TV and starts talking about The Everest.
The legendary trainer plans to bring U S Navy Flag to Australia to race in this year’s event.
That says it all, really.
Australian racing has for years tried to get topline overseas horses to race in Australia’s premier sprint events, but has never really succeeded.
Sure, there had been the odd raider, but it never caught on. At least, not like what happens with our staying events.
O’Brien’s desire to bring one of the best European sprinters to our shores says a lot about The Everest.
The race itself hasn’t caught on with the general public yet and will never rival the Melbourne Cup in terms of public interest, but among the racing fraternity, I believe it has already surpassed our greatest staying event.
For many racing fans, the Melbourne Cup is an inconvenience.
You can’t do the form properly because horses are coming from all over the world to race in it and many haven’t run 3200m all year, while the fact there are 24 horses running around make it all but impossible to line up with any confidence.
At least with sprint racing, you can judge by times and past performances.
I’ve always said the Cox Plate is our greatest race, because the best horse almost always wins and its run at the perfect distance of 2000m on the WFA scale.
But The Everest has won me over. Sure, it isn’t perfect.
It’s not an open race so there is potential for a good horse to be denied a chance, but each year we are likely to get the best eight or nine sprinters from Australia together in one race – as well as a couple of topline overseas gallopers – all of which would have been prepared solely for the event.
Give me that over a Melbourne Cup featuring five Lloyd Williams runners every day of the week.
Voodoo Lad shows his class
Whenever you have a horse that is proven to be competitive in Group 1 company dropping back down to Group 3 level it should raise alarm bells as a punter.
Not a bad alarm, mind you, just an alarm that says get ready to have a bet.
The Darren Weir-trained galloper was too classy for his rivals in the Group 3 Sir John Monash Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield on Saturday.
Brad Rawiller continued his perfect run on the horse, having now won four times from as many rides on Voodoo Lad.
“It was a terrific ride as he’s not easy to ride and Brad just clicks with him,” Weir said.
“You’ve got to do everything properly on him. He’s got to get him to switch off and then get him to the outside, and once he did that you knew he was going to be a great chance to win.
“His previous two rides weren’t any good as he was pulling and he was ridden too close. He’s a good horse on his day.”
Weir said he would return to Caulfield for his next start in the Bletchingly Stakes (1200m) on July 28.
Stablemate Nature Strip will not be joining him.
The boom sprinter was touted as a contender in the Bletchingly, but word on Sunday suggested he will instead go to Adelaide and contest the Listed Lightning Stakes (1000m).
Weir’s stable foreman Jarrod McLean said: “We’ve had a lot of success in South Australia this season and we continue to look at their program for suitable options for our horses.
“The travel to South Australia will be beneficial for him and he also gets to go around a bend on race day for the first time since joining our stable.”
Nature Strip is likely to face Magic Millions winner Sunlight in the Lightning Stakes.
Demolition lives up to his name
It was only a Benchmark 78 on a cold day at Caulfield, but how good was Demolition’s win on Saturday?
He was a good thing beaten last time out and punters who backed up felt like they were going to do their dough again when Damian Lane found himself last heading towards the final bend.
But Lane, who is likely to win the Victorian jockeys’ premiership this year, did what a good jockey should do and backed in his horse to be too classy.
Instead of riding for luck and saving ground, Lane took off just before the 400m and whipped around the field. There were concerns in the last 100m that Demolition might run out of steam, but the Godolphin runner did enough to hang on.
Horse to follow
There was an eye-catching winner at the Sunshine Coast by the name of Zoustyle.
The Tony Gollan-trained gelding will likely be sent for a spell after winning impressively on Saturday, but could appear in the Sydney autumn carnival next year.
Zoustyle led them up and Brad Stewart said after the race that the rising three-year-old was “as potentially as good as I’ve ridden”.
Stewart, who rode Zoustyle in his 12-length trial win and two race-day wins, will be keen to follow him to his next race.
“It’s scary how good I think he is,” the jockey said.
“I know it’s a big statement, but I don’t think I’ve seen a two-year-old that I would be afraid of taking on with this guy.
“He’s only won a couple of average races, but against his own age I wouldn’t be shying away from any of them.”
Gollan said sending him to Melbourne for the spring might be too ambitious.
“The spring is going to come up just a bit quick for us,” he said.
“We’ve been patient this long, so we’re not going to rush him now. We can give him a good break now and then bring him back for the Queensland summer carnival. Long term, our eyes are firmly on Sydney next autumn.”
Horse to forget
This could be controversial, but let me make it clear: I am not bagging the horse.
But be careful backing Brutal next start. He was a magnificent five-length winner on debut at Caulfield on Saturday, but I’d be keen to watch him go around next time, unless he’s a ridiculous price.
He could end up being a very good horse, but horses that win by that margin on debut and start at $5 can raise a few eyebrows. Did the Hawkes team know he was that good? The pre-race interview suggested that performance was a surprise.
No doubt Brutal will start a lot shorter next start, wherever that may be, but I’d steer clear.
Put him in your blackbook and see how he goes. But he did debut in the middle of July which can be a sign.
How we went
It was a great day out for followers, with four collects from the five races previewed. The only disappointment was Megablast, who blew like a gale in betting and ran accordingly.
We liked two in the Winter Stakes at Rosehill and they ran first and second, while Voodoo Lad and Albumin won convincingly. The each-way selection of the day, Streets Of Avalon, ran second after a good run in transit, but paid well for a place.
Total spend in 2018: $260*
Total return in 2018: $397*
* Based on $20 spend per selection and CrownBet’s top tote dividend.