By Ray Hickson
In the middle of last winter, with ‘the comeback’ not yet really a reality, Nash Rawiller would do the rounds at Randwick and ride as many horses as he could to drum up support.
It was some six weeks before his July 25 return from a 15 month disqualification imposed in Hong Kong when he first met Classique Legend, the grey known as Jiminy who was all promise and about to embark on a huge mission.
His owner Bon Ho, along with Ho’s racing manager Carmel Size, had purchased a vacant slot in the $14 million TAB Everest for a horse with just four starts behind him.
Rawiller recalls that grey gelding made an instant impression. It’s safe to say, though, Rawiller didn’t think he’d still be riding him at this stage of the campaign.
“Before I started riding races and trials I was riding work every day,’’ he said.
“You can just tell he oozes class, he’s the real deal. He’s a lovely horse to work with, he’s an absolute gem, and it was a pleasure and an honour.
“It’s was just a dream I got the opportunity to sit on him not knowing what Kerrin was going to do.’’
Kerrin is, of course, Kerrin McEvoy and until he made the decision to stick with Redzel for Saturday’s sprint showdown at Royal Randwick he was Classique Legend’s regular partner.
Between the time he first sat on the four-year-old’s back and McEvoy’s decision in early September, Rawiller burst back into the riding ranks and is currently leading the Sydney jockeys premiership.
Given his history with Classique Legend the 44-year-old was the natural replacement.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in the horse,’’ Rawiller said.
“I wouldn’t swap rides with anything, it’s just whether it pans out for us on the day.
“I think he is primed and ready to go. He’s definitely improved a lot since his last run.’’
It wasn’t that long ago Classique Legend was in single figures with TAB in Everest betting but two defeats, though not disgraced in them, have seen him drift to $17.
Rawiller would say that’s unfair because he rates both runs, a half length second to Pierata first-up in The Shorts and a 0.9 length third to Burtal in the Premiere Stakes, as good efforts.
In the latter, the gelding ran the day’s fastest last 600m of 33.93 (Punter’s Intelligence).
“The tempo was against him, whether his first-up run was against him and flattened him a bit I don’t know but he has come ahead in leaps and bounds,’’ Rawiller said.
“The couple of runs he’s had now have turned him from a boy to a man. He has an unbelievable finish, I don’t think we will change too much.
“He’s taken a sit both runs and he can really attack the line, with a bit more pressure it should suit him greatly.’’
Classique Legend’s 81-year-old trainer Les Bridge has clearly enjoyed the TAB Everest ride with a horse he has unwavering faith in.
Classique Legend runs third in the Premiere Stakes on Octobver 5
Like Rawiller, Bridge can’t work out why his horse has fallen out of favour.
“He got beaten a head by Pierata who is one of the favourites and he’s $17 I can’t work that out, and the other day maybe the race wasn’t run to suit him,’’ he said.
“I’m not using that as an excuse, he ran well and he’s had a perfect preparation. I’ve trained a lot of horses for big races and I couldn’t ask for anything better.’’
Bridge said in an ideal world he’d like Classique Legend to be parked about four or five lengths off the lead on Saturday, somewhat similar to his win in the Group 2 Arrowfield Sprint over the Everest course during The Championships.
“It will be a truly run race on Saturday, you can’t say they are good things in a field like that because there are too many good horses,’’ Bridge said.
“What I am saying is he’s as fit as I can get him and I think he will run really well.’’