By Ray Hickson
Tim Clark knows a thing or two about being the underdog going into The Everest but he’s quietly confident Shoals will surprise a few people come October 13.
The in-form jockey, who rode $51 chance Tulip into fifth in the inaugural Everest, made the trip to Cranbourne on Tuesday to partner the three time Group 1 winner to victory in an 800m trial that also contained stablemate and Everest runner Santa Ana Lane.
It was the first time Clark had sat on the four-year-old since they combined to win the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m) in Adelaide back in May and he gave her rave reviews.
“I haven’t had much to do with her so it was nice to get back on her,’’ he said.
“Anthony (Freedman) and the team have a better idea on how she’s going but from what I felt in the trial I was rapt with what she did.
“It’s nice to have that opportunity to ride her in such a big race. I’m definitely looking forward to the next couple of months.’’
Shoals, who will race in the slot owned by The Star, finished strongly late to down Angelic Spirit with Inglis’ Everest runner Santa Ana Lane the closest of third after leading the trial.
Both horses are on the $15 line of betting with TAB for the $13 million feature at Royal Randwick behind Trapeze Artist ($4.50).
Clark said Shoals is the type of horse that can adapt to whatever situation unfolds in a race and that makes her a good ride in a high-pressure race like The Everest.
“She doesn’t have too many chinks in her armour,’’ he said.
“She goes on any surface, different distances, back or forward, she’s a versatile mare and obviously very good to do what she did as a three-year-old.
“She hasn’t grown a lot but she’s very strong, extremely powerful and she’s got a big engine.’’
Shoals is scheduled to kick off her Everest quest in the Group 2 McEwen Stakes (1000m) at Moonee Valley on September 8 where she’ll likely clash with boom sprinter Nature Strip.
It’s likely she’ll tackle the Group 1 Moir Stakes over the same course later in September, won last year by She Will Reign, before heading to Sydney but that’s not confirmed yet.
“That’s the beauty with having a slot already, you can pick and choose which races you want to run in,’’ Clark said.
“The main goal is in the middle of October and everything is geared to getting her ready for that day.’’
Stable foreman Sam Freedman said the efforts of both Everest runners were just what was required, especially concerning Santa Ana Lane who was given a much more rousing gallop.
In their first trial, the Goodwood and Stradbroke winner was given a very easy time but on Tuesday jockey Ben Melham had him right on the pace.
“It was a different way of riding (Santa Ana Lane) and he acquitted himself well,’’ Freedman said on Sky Sports Radio.
“It was exactly what we needed. He needed a strong one and she just needed some extra maintenance.
“We haven’t tightened the screws yet, the Everest is still a fair way off, but they’re doing everything right.’’
Freedman said Santa Ana Lane will resume at Caulfield on Saturday week in the Listed The Heath 1100 Stakes (1100m) but warned “he will probably need that one for fitness’’.