Berry’s Everest Crusade Right On Target

By Ray Hickson

It’s all roads to the $15m TAB Everest now for Tommy Berry and Masked Crusader after a Chautauqua-like last to first win at Randwick on Saturday.

Tommy Berry and Masked Crusader after winning the Premiere Stakes (Pic: Steve Hart).

The grey wasn’t able to win an Everest in its inaugural running back in 2017 and while Masked Crusader reminded everyone of what he can do in winning the Group 2 $500,000 ACY Securities Premiere Stakes (1200m) Berry can only hope the cards fall his way again in two weeks.

The result is sure to shake up the TAB Everest a little with Queensland star Rothfire failing, beaten four lengths in finishing seventh, and Lost And Running improving on his first-up effort to run fourth.

Masked Crusader firmed into $6 with TAB, Lost And Running held his spot at $15 while Rothfire eased from $9 out to $15.

Berry had no choice but to ride Masked Crusader for luck after he was again slow to get moving and that’s the Achilles heel that worries him come October 16.

“He is definitely going to need luck in The Everest the way he races but that is why he doesn’t win every time,’’ Berry said.

“When he gets his luck he’s always there. It was nice as he hasn’t had the best of luck this horse.

“He jumped OK today but he still didn’t muster speed, I never travelled for most of the race. They did go quite quick. He wasn’t dragging me up to the corner, I let him cut the corner and come through them a little bit.”

The five-year-old ($2.50 favourite) held a half length margin over Standout ($21) while Embracer ($21) was another three-quarters away in third.

He clocked a last 600m of 33.18 (Punter’s Intelligence) which was not surprisingly easily the fastest in the race.

While things like the tempo, track conditions and luck will have a say in the TAB Everest result, Berry said Masked Crusader will arrive there in his best possible condition for slot holders the Max Whitby and Neil Werrett group.

“He sprinted very well but I tell you what he has got improvement this guy,’’ he said.

“He had a good blow when I pulled up. His run sort of just started to end coming to the line.”

No Premiere Stakes winner has won the TAB Everest though Masked Crusader will be only the third to attempt the double after Santa Ana Lane (2018) and Libertini last year.

Comparisons with Chautauqua are inevitable given Masked Crusader races in the same colours and has a get back pattern and Berry admits he was caught up in the similarities.

“He has always lived to my expectations but a couple of times I tried to ride him like the old grey horse,’’ he said.

“I realise how easy it was when I was riding him now because I could go back and loop the field. He’s no Chautauqua this guy but he’s a very good horse.

“You don’t get horses like Chautauqua come around very often. I had to learn that so I cut the corner today and hoped for a bit of luck. It worked out thank God.”

Classique Legend retained favouritism for the TAB Everest at $4.50.