There was a claim (and counterclaim) of interference in a bizarre case of 1st v 1st, as it seems like connections of Ciccina and Vendidit weren’t happy with having to share the prize money. But stewards dismissed the objections.
It’s George Main Stakes day at Randwick on Saturday.
It’s rare that the lone Group 1 race on a card isn’t the most anticipated race of the day, but that honour belongs to the Shorts this week. Such is the power of the Everest.
George Main Stakes
Verry Elleegant is the strong favourite here, as she often is when lining up. Her last crack at the famous Randwick mile saw her take out the Group 1 Chipping Norton against a similar line-up to what she faces here.
She’s also second up after placing first up at 1400 metres, just as she was then, and the likelihood of juice in the track is even more to her advantage. It all lines up to say she’s the horse to beat again.
A number of horses here finished behind Verry Elleegant in the Winx Stakes, where she was second. The winner Mo’unga was seen in Melbourne last week, no doubt to the disgust of Peter V’landys.
Kolding was very plain in the Winx, finishing ninth albeit less than two lengths from the winner. His first-up run was a bit basic too, so he’s at the crossroads again. Any give in the track won’t be to his liking either, if Chris Waller does have him primed to bounce back.
Think It Over was just over half a length from Mo’unga in the Winx, only good enough for sixth, but has since franked that busy finish by taking out the Chelmsford at this course and distance two weeks ago. He was the map horse that day, and his quality got it done. He’ll be there.
Cascadian was also in the finish in the Winx Stakes, but couldn’t catch Think It Over in the Chelmsford. He’s always an eye-catcher but isn’t the sort of horse you’d want your last dollar on, getting back and running on. Others can have him.
Hungry Heart didn’t make a huge impression first up, also in the Winx, but ran well enough to keep an eye on her going forward. She’s another that needs it bone dry to produce her best, so you’d only recommend her at some value on a good track.
Riodini was just nailed by Think It Over in the Chelmsford, and has always appealed as a horse that could sneak away with one of these big races. Rachel King led on him in last time, and may decide to again with no obvious speed in the race. If she rates him well enough and a couple of others are asleep at the wheel, he can win.
Three horses here come through the Tramway, which looks the lesser form, as reflected in the market prices of these runners.
Star of the Seas seems to prefer easier assignments these days. Lion’s Roar needs to show he can make the step up from three-year-old Group 1 winner to open age company. Shout the Bar has more bad days than good, but taking up the lead might be the best way for her to be competitive.
Racing doesn’t always work this way, but this one does look pretty clear-cut.
Selections: 1. Verry Elleegant, 2. Think It Over, 3. Riodini, 4. Cascadian.
Oh boy, are we in for a treat here. Six of the seven Everest slot-holders clash, who are six of the first seven favourites in betting for Sydney’s biggest race. The only one not here is last year’s Everest winner Classique Legend, which only adds to the mystique.
Nature Strip holds a firm grip on the market as the world’s best sprinter, and wasn’t he just dripping with absolute quality when he resumed in the Concorde. He never looked to be anything but jogging, but was still able to sprint away from a good field powerfully. What an outstanding horse.
Masked Crusader is the rising star, ready to ask the question once more of the champ. He came of age in the autumn, winning his first Group 1 as well as running second to Nature Strip in the TJ Smith.
He’s now a fully furnished five-year-old, being trained specifically for distances up to 1200 metres. We know he likes to get back and run on, as he did impressively first up at Caulfield, but can he be close enough to run down all of these electric sprinters?
Eduardo and Gytrash are the more experienced hands, having tackled Nature Strip and each other over the last 12 months.
Eduardo is a dual Group 1 winner this calendar year and is 1-1 with Nature Strip in that time. Joe Pride is never short of talking a big game, and he reckons he has this horse going better than he ever has. He was third in the TJ Smith behind Nature Strip and Masked Crusader, so does need to find a few lengths on that.
Gytrash sensationally beat Nature Strip last September in the Concorde, beat him home again when running third in the Everest, and took out the Winners Stakes that spring too. He was a bit underwhelming in the autumn, but can sizzle first up if he’s right.
Then we get to Lost and Running and Rothfire, the fresh horses on the scene.
Lost and Running, despite being five, has only had seven starts. He’s won six of them, working his way through the grades and effortlessly demolishing most that cross his path. This is an enormous step up, of course, but the fact that he’s shorter odds than horses the calibre of Eduardo and Gytrash tell you that he is a serious contender. Now, he has to prove it.
Rothfire looked like a legitimate world-beater this time last year. He’d spaced his rivals as a two-year-old in the JJ Atkins up in Queensland, and then was one of the most impressive Run to the Rose winners on record. He was unbackable in the Golden Rose but broke down in the straight and hasn’t been seen since.
He’s now recuperated, has trialled beautifully, and is the genuine X-factor in a race that isn’t lacking for it. Who knows what we’re going to see, but it’s truly exciting.
Wild Ruler is smart enough, but won’t test these. If Handle The Truth or Adelong can run top four, it will be the run of their lives.
Hold on to your hat when the starter lets this field go, it’s going to be memorable. And the beauty of it is that we’ll have even better to come in a month’s time when most of this field tries to climb the mountain.
Selections: 1. Nature Strip, 2. Gytrash, 3. Eduardo, 4. Masked Crusader.