By Ray Hickson
It took about 801 metres for trainer Joe Pride to be sure he made the right jockey selection for his TAB Everest hope Eduardo.
Pride consulted with injured jockey Corey Brown about who might be a good fit for the rejuvenated seven-year-old and after Rachel King guided Eduardo around in a Warwick Farm barrier trial last week he felt like he was watching poetry in motion.
It’s never easy to replace a jockey who has tasted success on a horse for their grand final but Nash Rawiller, who had been on board in all three starts for Pride, committed to ride Behemoth in the TAB Everest before Eduardo had gained a slot through miRunners.
Now both Pride and King have their first TAB Everest runner and with a horse that has a cheer squad of over 2000, including the horse’s owners and the everyday people who bought micro slots offered by miRunners, along for the ride.
“He probably ran a bit quicker than I thought in the trial he was going to but he seemed pretty comfortable doing it,’’ Pride said.
“It was his first go with a different jockey on. I’d like to think if we’ve got it right, we’ve got the right jockey. He might go better for Rachel than he did for Nash.
“That hasn’t been proven yet but the trial was a good learning curve for Rachel about the horse.”
Key to Pride and Brown’s decision making is King’s ability to blend in with a horse because Eduardo isn’t the type of horse that needs a ‘standover’ jockey or to be pushed to produce his best.
When he watched Eduardo win that trial on October 9 the trainer saw exactly what he needed to see.
“He just needs someone to go with him and be part of him,’’ Pride said.
“He is on the small side and he has a massive stride and we want a rider that is balanced. Rachel looked that way in the trial, he flew, and she’s been chosen for a reason.
“The fact she is riding well and full of confidence even better.”
Eduardo has been nothing short of a revelation since he joined the Pride stable mid-year. He was Group 1 placed in February 2019 and was only beaten 1.5 lengths by Nature Strip at Group 1 level last spring but then lost his way.
Pride has a reputation for being able to encourage a horse to rediscover their spark and Eduardo made his stable debut with a win over smart Godolphin sprinter Roheryn followed by a Group 2 win in the Missile Stakes (1200m) downing Flit and Imaging.
And while Pride quickly pitched up for his horse as a genuine contender in the $15m TAB Everest (1200m) it wasn’t until his brave second behind Classique Legend in the Group 2 Shorts four weeks ago that people took some notice.
Classique Legend is pressing for favouritism while Eduardo is a $21 chance with TAB.
“He has those two wins where he beat Imaging and Flit and other good horses then he’s come out and run second to Classique Legend and he had a torrid run,’’ Pride said.
“I’m convinced he didn’t have a chance to respond to the challenge of that horse because he fought off everything around him and the grey horse has come at him that quickly it was over in a stride.
“I don’t know if it is reflected in the price he is.”
Eduardo wins a trial at Warwick Farm on October 9
The Pride-trained Ball Of Muscle was a big player in bringing down Nature Strip in the Concorde Stakes earlier this spring and it’s clear Eduardo will be involved in the speed picture.
Nature Strip will likely be pivotal to how the TAB Everest unfolds and Pride said he’s wary of the race favourite but not focused on him and his presence won’t dictate their tactics.
“I‘d rather something else take him on but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to win the race,’’ he said.
“A lot of people are thinking that (Nature Strip) isn’t going as good this preparation for one reason or another. I thought he was pretty disappointing the other day, yeah he did run one fast sectional but he looked disappointing.
“We don’t want to spend all our time and energy thinking about how we are going to bring Nature Strip undone, we need to think about how we are going to get the best out of our horse.
“I’d like him in his own comfortable rhythm, on speed, hopefully not running ridiculous sectionals, either him or horses around him, so he gets his opportunity to run home as quick as he can.
“He thinks he’s unbeatable at the moment. Everything he does is with such purpose and enthusiasm.”