By Ray Hickson
Embracer might not have been an obvious TAB Everest choice but slot holder James Kennedy is banking on the magic of Gai Waterhouse and the Group 1 winning spring form of her training partnership with Adrian Bott.
Kennedy, the Everest’s newest player having purchased the GPI Racing slot in 2021, was left in the unfortunate position of having to choose a runner at the 11th hour due to the injury to Queensland star Rothfire but feels he’s found a horse with a fighting chance.
It was Embracer’s career best effort to run third at weight-for-age behind Masked Crusader in the Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) that suggested to Kennedy that the six-year-old is capable of stepping up further.
“The Everest is a high-pressure race and I wanted a tough, seasoned sprinter,’’ Kennedy said.
“I feel he has had a good lead-up into The Everest and the Gai and Adrian stable has had a great spring so far.
“I’m confident Embracer will put in a good, tough performance, and I genuinely believe any of the 12 runners have a chance of winning the race this year, it’s that open.’
It will be the Waterhouse/Bott stable’s first runner in the TAB Everest since English ran sixth in the inaugural Everest in 2017 and while he’s an outsider, $51 with TAB, Bott said the stable is excited to team up with Kennedy.
“James is a great supporter of racing, very passionate about his racing and he’s made significant investment in the industry,’’ he said.
“Hopefully we can vindicate his decision to pick up Embracer.”
Bott said there is still upside to Embracer and his placings in the Theo Marks and Premiere, both proven Everest lead ups, which followed a narrow defeat to Epsom winner Private Eye first-up show he’s in good touch at the moment and is rapt the horse has the chance to surprise a few.
“It’s part of the intrigue and the ever-evolving aspect if the Everest and what makes it so great,’’ Bott said.
“There’s so many variables to it, right up to the last minute we’re able to see horses like Embracer be given a chance in the race.
“For an older horse he’s still relatively lightly raced. I’m still hoping we can continue to see improvement from his through his career. Of course he is going to need to go to a new peak on Saturday.”
The Everest will be Embracer’s 20th start and Bott believes the decision to geld Embracer has been the making of him and allowed him to take some giant leaps.
Key to that is the horse no longer being a one-dimensional speedster.
“Being able to prove himself at weight-for-age last start that ticked a real big box,’’ he said.
“I take a real positive from his racing pattern, and this gets back to the gelding part, that he’s quite versatile. He’s got a lot of raw speed and he has a turn of foot. In the Premiere we rode him more conservatively from the wide draw, he was able to get back and settle in the run.
“He’s an improving type, he’s very fit at this point of his preparation. He’s had a great grounding, he can be adaptable to the way the race pans out.
“If he does take those couple of lengths improvement from his last run in the Premiere that can bring him into the mix.”