Continued from Everest Vol. I

SANTA ANA LANE

A closer in career-best form for Anthony Freedman, Santa Ana Lane just clinched his Everest slot in July. The sales company Inglis inked the deal to have their graduate represent.

The Lope de Vega gelding (same sire as Vega Magic) had been a useful type before reaching this level. Santa Ana Lane captured the Zeditave (G3) at three and compiled a few stakes placings, including a close third to Redzel in the Heath 1100 (G3) in 2016. His charging fifth (of 20) to Vega Magic in the 2017 Goodwood hinted that more was to come.

Santa Ana Lane scored his breakthrough in last October’s Sir Rupert Clarke (G1). Overlooked at 25-1 as one of the 115-pound lightweights, he got up in the nick of time going seven furlongs. Things didn’t fall into place for him in the Winterbottom (G1) at Perth, where he could get no closer than sixth to Viddora. After a subpar reappearance in a Caulfield listed race (exited with a dirty scope), Santa Ana Lane turned the page with a flying third in the McKay (G3).

That set Santa Ana Lane up for an unprecedented Group 1 double. In a nifty piece of broken-field running at Morphettville, he upset the Goodwood (on soft) at 25-1, leaving highweight Vega Magic back in eighth. Spot him in the dark silks, gold cap, weaving his way from near last turning for home:

Santa Ana Lane was again underappreciated as a 13-1 shot in the Stradbroke (G1). Sluicing through the heavy going at Doomben, he became the first to turn the Goodwood/Stradbroke double.

While his soft-ground proficiency comes in handy, Santa Ana Lane proved he’s capable in much faster conditions too. He resumed in good heart with a fast-finishing fifth in the Heath 1100, under top weight of 132 pounds, and moved forward second up in the Premiere. Exploding up the fence in the “mini-Everest,” he edged stablemate Shoals and comebacking titleholder In Her Time in a course-record 1:07.45.

Post 9 in the Everest might not be a detriment to a one-run type like Santa Ana Lane, and he obviously clicks with jockey Ben Melham.

SHOALS

Freedman commented that his other Premiere runner, last year’s Australian champion sophomore filly Shoals, was likely less enthused by the fast ground and eligible to move up in the wet. That makes her dangerous in the Everest, where she’s shading Santa Ana Lane as one of the joint favorites.  

By Fastnet Rock, whose progeny can improve with maturity, and out of a half to Redoute’s Choice, Shoals has been exceptionally consistent at a high level throughout her career. She won all three starts as a juvenile, capped by the Percy Sykes (G2) on heavy going at this track and trip. Successful again in her three-year-old bow, she lost her perfect mark when upped in distance but was still runner-up in the Thousand Guineas (G1) and its Prelude (G2) at Caulfield.

Shoals then got her mile prize in last November’s Myer Classic (G1) at Flemington, revealing her gutsy character as she persevered late. Subsequently shortening up, she threw in her only poor effort when eighth in the Kevin Hayes (G3), but roared right back to take the seven-furlong Surround (G1), again boxing on in determined fashion.

After a break, Shoals crowned her campaign in the six-furlong Sangster (G1) on soft going at Morphettville. Instead of having to dig deep, she mowed them down for fun as if to proclaim that this was her trip.

Connections now looked to the Everest, and in June lined up the slot owned by The Star Entertainment Group. Shoals has prepped nicely, advancing from a third in the September 8 McEwen (G2) (in track record-time) to her near-miss to Santa Ana Lane in the Premiere.

US NAVY FLAG

O’Brien’s shipper US Navy Flag has shown bags of speed not only in Europe, but in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on dirt. American fans may remember that he blazed early at Del Mar before his stamina ran out in 10th. If the War Front colt is vulnerable over longer, he’s proven himself a proper sprinter.

The European highweight two-year-old colt after turning the elusive Middle Park (G1)/Dewhurst (G1) double, US Navy Flag was set for the Guineas to see if he could last the mile. He tried mightily when fifth (despite a bad stumble) in the French version and runner-up in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) at the Curragh. Following a ninth in the St James’s Palace (G1) at Royal Ascot, US Navy Flag finally got a chance in the six-furlong July Cup (G1), and he wired the field. Although the collateral international form through well-beaten elders Blue Point and Redkirk Warrior implies he’d fit well here, neither of them ran anywhere near their best.

US Navy Flag must overcome two gigantic challenges: the fact that he’s going into the lion’s den to face Australian speed merchants at home, and the ground’s close to the worst he’s experienced.

Coolmore’s Tom Magnier pulled no punches:

“He usually likes to run to the front, but there is a hell of a lot more speed in races in Australia than at home in Europe. “We know we have a big task ahead of us taking on the Australian horses, we know the best sprinters come from here, and we will learn a lot.”

POSTSCRIPT

Given the complexion of the Everest, it would be no surprise if a better-priced alternative upset the apple cart or boosted the exotics. In this vein, two of the Kris Lees runners must be mentioned. New recruit In Her Time missed in a trio of Group 1s before breaking through in the Galaxy (G1) on soft, and her aforementioned placings to Trapeze Artist and Santa Ana Lane put her right in the hunt. Unable to secure a spot in the inaugural Everest, she was a hot commodity this time, becoming the second to line up a booking courtesy of Tabcorp.

Stablemate Le Romain has his work cut out as a win candidate among these over an inadequate trip, never mind from post 11. But the old class horse has place claims at a big price if the going is desperate. The Hard Spun gelding upended Chautauqua in the 6 1/2-furlong Canterbury (G1) here at Randwick, on heavy, in 2017, and he’s earned his stripes chasing Winx too, most recently when second in the George Main (G1). Besides, Le Romain is TwinSpires’ hope in the “Climbing Everest” charity promotion. Easy to root for a good run for TwinSpires’ designated charity, the Kentucky Equine Humane Center.