by Mitch Lamb

Meet The Everest Contenders

Now in its third year, I think it would be fair to say that The Everest, at least in the modern era, has made as large an impact as any newly established race, certainly in Australia, and would have some claim to that same status worldwide. Sure, the event formation hasn’t been without controversy, but few could deny its status as an event that has quickly become one of racing’s most sought after prizes.

It is the richest race on turf on the planet and run at one of the world’s most iconic venues in Royal Randwick. As the world’s highest rated sprint race for its first two renewals, The Everest has again drawn a magnificent field of sprinters for 2019.

The barrier draw is completed and the 12 horses lining up this year are set to do battle on Saturday afternoon – Sydney time (very early Saturday morning, 1:15 a.m. EDT), so let’s take a look at them in detail.

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The Everest Selections

  1. Classique Legend
  2. Alizee
  3. Pierata
  4. Sunlight

Let’s meet The Everest cast:

Santa Ana Lane AUS
Santa Ana Lane – Photo courtesy of the Hong Kong Jockey Club

NO.1 SANTA ANA LANE

  • Trainer: Anthony Freedman
  • Jockey: Mark Zahra
  • Slot Holder: TAB
  • Pedigree: Lope De Vega (IRE) – Fast Fleet (AUS)
  • Barrier: 2
  • Record: 35: 10-2-5
  • Earnings: $3,572,609

Major Wins: 2019 G1 T.J. Smith Stks, 2018 G1 VRC Sprint Classic, 2018 G1 Stradbroke Hcp, 2018 G1 The Goodwood, 2017 G1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stks

Summary: Australia’s newly crowned champion sprinter, Santa Ana Lane captured Australia’s two most important Group 1 open sprint events last season in the T.J. Smith Stakes and VRC Sprint Classic, and became the highest rated sprinter on the planet in doing so.

Now a seven-year-old, the son of French Derby hero Lope De Vega, Santa Ana Lane returned from a break two weeks ago at Flemington in the Gilgai Stakes (G2), storming home late to get within a half length of flying mare Sunlight, one of his main rivals here.

His natural racing pattern is to get back early and be saved for a late charge, so from gate 2, he may need some luck in the straight when looking to make his run. But, the reality is, it’s hard to find too many faults with him and he’ll line up as either the favorite, or close to it.

Randwick Racing in Australia
Pierata – Courtesy of Sky Racing World

NO.2 PIERATA

  • Trainer: Greg Hickman
  • Jockey: Tommy Berry
  • Slot Holder: Aquis Farm
  • Pedigree: Pierro (AUS) – November Flight (AUS)
  • Barrier: 1
  • Record: 21: 8-6-2
  • Earnings: $2,451,862

Major Wins: 2019 G1 All Aged Stks, 2019 G2 The Shorts, 2018 G3 Sydney Stks, 2018 RL Magic Millions 3yo Classic

Summary: A former outstanding three year old, Pierata was thought to be more of a miler in the earlier parts of his career, and was runner-up in the Randwick Guineas (G1) over that trip in his classic season. But his trainer Greg Hickman has done a wonderful job in changing tack with the entire, turning him into a top class sprinter as an older horse.

He finally landed a much deserved Group 1 race in April when winning the All Aged Stakes at this venue, and, after a break, he resumed with a narrow second to two-time Everest champ Redzel in the Concorde Stakes (G3), in what was a fantastic effort, before confirming his status as a major player for this when holding off Classique Legend in The Shorts (G2) four weeks ago.

The son of former Two-Year-Old Triple Crown winner Pierro, one of Australia’s best young sires, Pierata is likely going to be midfield in transit from the inside gate, and he’s got a high quality turn of foot that could get him out of trouble if he struck some traffic issues in the straight. He’s right in this, and I’ve got him pegged as a huge chance.

Redzel winning the 2018 Everest Stakes
Redzel – Photo courtesy of Sky Racing World

NO.3 REDZEL

  • Trainer: Peter & Paul Snowden
  • Jockey: Kerrin McEvoy
  • Slot Holder: Yulong Investments
  • Pedigree: Snitzel (AUS) – Millrich (AUS)
  • Barrier: 7
  • Record: 35: 15-8-2
  • Earnings: $10,600,959

Major Wins: 2018 & 2017 The Everest, 2017 G1 VRC Sprint Classic, 2017 G1 Doomben 10,000

Summary: The second highest stakes earner in Australian racing history behind the legendary Winx, Redzel has in fact only won two Group 1 events, but, of course, his dual Everest victories have propelled him to that status.

Here’s the thing about Redzel – I personally don’t think he’s what I would call a “Champion,” but what he is, is the epitome of a very uncomplicated galloper, who is able to take advantage of race situations due to his ability to, firstly be on speed in any race he contests, and secondly fight extremely hard when challenged late. These two traits are what have been the catalyst for his two wins in this race, as on both occasions, he’s been able to get a relatively easy lead, kick away after straightening, and just prove too difficult to run down.

I’m not convinced that will be the case on Saturday, as there looks to be a lot more early speed on paper this year than either of the previous two, with the likes of Nature Strip and Sunlight engaged. Unless it rains, which it isn’t forecast to do, I just think it’s a bridge too far for him to complete the hat trick and I’ve got to leave him outside of my main hopes.

NO.4 NATURE STRIP

  • Trainer: Chris Waller
  • Jockey: Tim Clark
  • Slot Holder: James Harron Bloodstock
  • Pedigree: Nicconi (AUS) – Strikeline (AUS)
  • Barrier: 12
  • Record: 18: 11-2-0
  • Earnings: $1,269,457

Major Wins: 2019 G1 Moir Stks, 2019 G1 The Galaxy

Summary: For a horse with his type of record, which is a very good one, Nature Strip has often been a much maligned galloper, probably unfairly so. The basis of this criticism has essentially come from the fact that of the seven times he’s been beaten in a race, he’s been the post time favorite in six of them, including a few at very short odds. That’s not his fault, and in a couple of those starts, something has gone horribly wrong and has given him a genuine excuse for why he wasn’t able to win.

Here are the facts – the horse is a flying machine and few, if any other current gallopers, can go with him early in a race. He will lead them up in this, even from the outside alley. Of course, that is pending him jumping away cleanly, which he hasn’t done on a few of those occasions he’s been beat. Then, even if he does get away fine and is able to lead easily enough, there’s no doubt he’s going to be vulnerable late over the six furlongs against this class of opposition.

NO.5 TREKKING

  • Trainer: James Cummings
  • Jockey: Joshua Parr
  • Slot Holder: Melbourne Racing Club
  • Pedigree: Street Cry (IRE) – Outdoor (AUS)
  • Barrier: 5
  • Record: 22: 9-2-3
  • Earnings: $1,216,059

Major Wins: 2019 G1 Stradbroke Hcp, 2019 G2 Schillaci Stks

Summary: The final horse into The Everest field for 2019, Trekking obtained the slot held by the Melbourne Racing Club after winning last Saturday’s Schillaci Stakes (G2), in what was a nice looking win, albeit over a field with far less depth than this.

By former Dubai World Cup (G1) winner and champion sire Street Cry, who of course is most famous Down Under for being the sire of Winx, Trekking has been a horse who, for most of his career, has been more a Group 2/3 galloper, but has improved significantly the past six months to get to this point, including nabbing a maiden major in the Stradbroke Handicap (G1) back in June.

There’s definitely a question mark over his class compared to a few others here, especially under weight for age conditions. He’s genuine, but I just can’t see him being a big enough threat against this lot to actually win the race.

Classique Legendz (AUS)
Classique Legend – Courtesy of Sky Racing World)

NO.6 CLASSIQUE LEGEND

  • Trainer: Les Bridge
  • Jockey: Nash Rawiller
  • Slot Holder: Bon Ho & Carmel Size Racing
  • Pedigree: Not A Single Doubt (AUS) – Pinocchio (AUS)
  • Barrier: 8
  • Record: 6:3-1-2
  • Earnings: $619,000

Major Wins: 2019 G2 Arrowfield Sprint

Summary: I’ll admit this from the start, I’m an unabashed fan of this galloper and will be celebrating in a large way if he wins on Saturday. Putting that aside, Classique Legend is what you might describe as the “X Factor” runner is this year’s Everest – he’s only had the six lifetime starts, making his debut in March of this year, but he’s possibly got the highest ceiling of all those lining up.

By outstanding Aussie sire Not A Single Doubt, Classique Legend moves like a Rolls Royce across the turf, and he confirmed his star was on the rise when winning the Arrowfield Sprint (G2) during The Championships at Randwick in April. Given the fact he’s owned by Hong Kong connections, it was thought that could possibly be it for his Australian career, but the huge prizemoney on offer Down Under for a Spring four year old with this race, and the Golden Eagle, kept him here under the care of Randwick’s oldest trainer Les Bridge, and instead, Bon Ho went and bought a slot for The Everest to aim him at the World’s richest turf race.

He arguably should have won upon his return when a little unlucky behind Pierata in The Shorts, before a few thought he was a touch disappointing in the Premiere Stakes (G2) , when beaten less than a length into third behind Brutal as a well supported favorite, but the sectionals indicated he ran very well, and he clearly still had some improvement to come fitness wise.

I can’t believe the price he’s got out to now, he’s drawn perfectly in barrier 8 as he’s not a horse that thrives being cluttered up, and he is set to peak now – he’s my top pick and I think we’re about to see a superstar in the making’s crowning moment thus far.

NO.7 TEN SOVEREIGNS

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Jockey: Ryan Moore
Slot Holder: Coolmore
Pedigree: No Nay Never (USA) – Seeking Solace (GB)
Barrier: 11
Record: 7: 4-0-0
Earnings: $634,239

Major Wins: 2019 G1 July Cup, 2018 Middle Park Stks

Summary: Lightly raced entire trained by the master Aidan O’Brien, who brings form of extreme quality with him to Australia, including a dominant victory in Britain’s premier sprint, the July Cup (G1), before he was run off his legs in the Nunthorpe (G1) over the five-furlong trip.

Reports are that he must have a good surface to show his best, and that is unlikely to be an issue with the Sydney weather expected to be fine for most of the week. He is clearly an outstanding six-furlong galloper, with all four of his wins at this trip, and he’s got quite a devastating burst of acceleration when right.

By Coolmore’s young sire sensation No Nay Never, out of a mare by great Australian speed sire Exceed And Excel, he is bred to be quick. From that wide gate you’d have to think they’ll ride him quietly and save him for a late run to the outside of runners, and I think he can run a big race here and I’m a bit surprised he’s currently the rank outsider in the field of 12.

NO.8 ALIZEE

  • Trainer: James Cummings
  • Jockey: Hugh Bowman
  • Slot Holder: Godolphin
  • Pedigree: Sepoy (AUS) – Essaouira (AUS)
  • Barrier: 10
  • Record: 22: 9-2-3
  • Earnings: $1,668,365

Major Wins: 2019 G1 Futurity Stks, 2018 G1 Queen Of The Turf Stks, 2017 G1 Flight Stks

Summary: From day one, Alizee has been a mare with a huge amount of class and she’s been against the best of era for the majority of her career. She’s a triple Group 1 winner, with all of those coming over either the seven- or eight-furlong trips, but we’ve seen previously that she can be devastating when kept fresh and back to a sprint trip, and that’s exactly what James Cummings has done with her in the lead-up to this.

Make no mistake, she is well and truly good enough to win this race. I would have loved to have seen her draw a touch closer to the fence than where she is in gate 10, because I think that may end up meaning she’s one or two pairs further back than what they’d ideally want.

But she can burn the turf late over this distance and I expect her to be the one finishing off as well as anything and it would be no surprise if she ended up taking home the big prize.

Sunlight (AUS)
Sunlight – Courtesy of Sky Racing World

NO.9 SUNLIGHT

  • Trainer: Tony and Calvin McEvoy
  • Jockey: Luke Currie
  • Slot Holder: Max Whitby
  • Pedigree: Zoustar (AUS) – Solar Charged (AUS)
  • Barrier: 6
  • Record: 19: 11-1-5
  • Earnings: $3,142,896

Major Wins: 2019 G1 William Reid Stks, 2019 G1 Newmarket Hcp, 2018 G1 Coolmore Stud Stks, 2018 RL Magic Millions 2yo Classic

Summary: The reigning Australian champion three-year-old filly, Sunlight has been a winning machine since her juvenile days and is arguably the second best sprinting female of this century, with perhaps only the immortal Black Caviar in front of her.

She’s extremely uncomplicated – she gets out of the gates quickly, she puts herself right on the speed, and when she’s asked for the ultimate effort she finds every time, and that’s been the exact manner in which she has won all three of her Group 1s, so expect nothing different here.

Another that has some superb speed blood in her pedigree, being by record-breaking young colonial sire Zoustar, a multiple Group 1-winning sprinter himself, out of an absolute flying filly in Solar Charged.

Her latest win was another example of her bombproof racing style, as she dominated from the front in the Gilgai Stakes, holding off Santa Ana Lane in the last part of the race, so she’s in fantastic form. Very hard to knock her, in fact, she’s one of my all time favorite racehorses, but my gut feeling is that at least one of them runs her down late.

In Her Time (AUS)
In Her Time – Courtesy of Sky Racing World/Steve Hart

NO.10 IN HER TIME

Trainer: Kris Lees
Jockey: Brenton Avdulla
Slot Holder: Inglis
Pedigree: Time Thief (AUS) – Hell It’s Hot (AUS)
Barrier: 4
Record: 25: 9-4-3
Earnings: $2,121,427

Major Wins: 2019 G1 Lightning Stks, 2018 G1 The Galaxy

Summary: Superb sprinting mare who has raced against the best short course races in Australia for two seasons now, never shirking her task.

She comes into this year’s Everest first up from a spell, and there’s no doubt she does fly when fresh, this has clearly been the plan all along and she has looked in very good order at three barrier trials leading into this.

Hails from a genuine Australian speed family and is in fact closely related to one of her rivals here in Yes Yes Yes. I don’t think you can doubt her quality, nor her trainer Kris Lees’ ability to get his runners right for a big day, but this is a red-hot field and unfortunately I’d have to leave her out of my top few. At the odds she’s likely to jump, though, she’s worth throwing in for all your exotic plays.

Arcadia Queen (AUS)
Arcadia Queen – Courtesy of Sky Racing World

NO.11 ARCADIA QUEEN

Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: James McDonald
Slot Holder: The Star
Pedigree: Pierro (AUS) – Arcadia (AUS)
Barrier: 3
Record: 7:6-0-1
Earnings: $813,263

Major Wins: 2019 G1 Kingston Town Stks, 2019 G2 Theo Marks Stks

Summary: Many want to declare this mare the next big thing and there’s no doubt that the former Western Australia based daughter of Pierro is a superb prospect, and what she has done thus far has been outstanding.

Now being prepared by Australia’s master conditioner Chris Waller, Arcadia Queen looked every bit a star when she easily won the Theo Marks Stakes (G2) at her Sydney debut, albeit against a field of lesser quality than this.

The big question is – can she really go up against the nation’s best short course gallopers and have enough speed to win? Because she’s probably more a miler in her truest form and that sort of distance, and perhaps further, is likely where she ends up doing most of her best racing. But she does have a heap of upside, she’s got arguably the most lethal trainer/jockey combination in the race, and she’s got a withering finish on her.

If she does indeed win this race, then the sky is truly the ceiling for her because she’s only going to get better as time goes on and her distances increase.

NO.12 YES YES YES

Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Glen Boss
Slot Holder: Chris Waller Racing
Pedigree: Rubick (AUS) – Sin Sin Sin (AUS)
Barrier: 9
Record: 7: 3-3-0
Earnings: $388,444

Major Wins: 2019 G2 Todman Stks

Summary: It’s a huge ask for a Spring three year old (this time of year being the first part of the racing season) to come up against the very best older horses in the land and win. Most of the time, they just simply aren’t seasoned enough to cope.

This will be Yes Yes Yes’s biggest test to date by far, but he’s done plenty of good things in his relatively short career. He was one of the best juvenile colts of his generation and he has returned at three with two excellent efforts behind Godolphin’s star three-year-old Bivouac, including a narrow second in the Golden Rose (G1) last start.

Chris Waller has sung the praises of this colt and he gets the services of possibly Australia’s best “big race” jockey of this century in Glen Boss, perhaps most familiar to U.S. audiences for his three-peat Melbourne Cup (G1) in the middle of last decade aboard the legendary Makybe Diva.

But it really is a massive leap in quality and depth this field to anything he’s competed in, simply due to his age, because he has certainly been running in some of the best events a young galloper can be thrown into. It’s just a different kettle of fish here and it might be a bridge too far.

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