By Ray Hickson
At Royal Randwick
Two weeks out from Australia’s richest race, the TAB Everest looks nothing like it did before a dramatic 24 hours in racing.
Santa Ana Lane’s track record breaking win in the Group 2 $500,000 Santos Coffee Premiere Stakes (1200m) has changed the face of The Everest and left a few contenders with work to do.
Defending Everest champ Redzel set the frantic pace and a clearly disappointed trainer Peter Snowden said aside from the well publicised setback there were excuses as the horse raced too fresh and took charge of jockey Kerrin McEvoy running 23.27 for the first 400m.
“The margin he was beaten can be improved on and the execution can be better,’’ Snowden said.
“Now he’s had that run he will be a bit more relaxed. He’ll be right in two weeks.
“These are very good horses and you can’t afford to be carried away in our own race. You have to be mindful of what these horses can do.’’
Trapeze Artist loomed up to win the Premiere early in the straight after tracking the speed in midfield and his trainer Gerald Ryan says he’ll peak on Everest Day.
“He was good, he will improve. I’ve made no secret of the fact all the way along that he will improve,’’ Ryan said.
“He’s still run the same time as he did when he won the TJ (Smith).’’
Third placed In Her Time, chasing successive Premiere Stakes, hit the lead and appeared set for victory before the Anthony Freedman trained duo Santa Ana Lane and Shoals attacked from either side.
New trainer Kris Lees was more that satisfied with her return. In Her Time won the Sydney Stakes on Everest Day second-up last spring.
“I couldn’t have been happier with her first-up run provided she bounces out of it,’’ Lees said.
“She has run super time but she profiles second-up really well so she is right in the mix.’’
Jockey Corey Brown said Redzel didn’t take him as far into the straight as he had hoped and that probably cost In Her Time the race. But he was rapt and can’t wait for the Everest.
“She’s back, that’s as good as she has ever felt for me,” he said.
Of course while those that finished behind the Freedman pair take stock, the Mornington trainer can head into the $13 million TAB Everest (1200m) with a full head of steam.
Freedman said running one-two in the Premiere was a bonus and is confident he has timed the preparation of both Santa Ana Lane and Shoals to perfection.
“I just knew they’d run well, I didn’t mind where they ran as long as they ran well,’’ Freedman said.
“There was a little bit (of improvement) there. I’m happy with both, we just have to turn up in two weeks.’’
Winning jockey Ben Melham said Santa Ana Lane relished the solid tempo up front and banked on the leaders rolling away from the fence, which was what unfolded.
He finished his last 600m in 32.64, bettered only by Shoals who ran 32.52, in clocking 1:07.45 for the 1200m.
“They are the best set of sprinters in the land at the minute so to speak and it’s certainly good to get a win on the board with him and hopefully he can carry it over to the Everest in a fortnight’s time,” Melham said.
Santa Ana Lane assumed favouritism for The TAB Everest on October 13, joining last year’s runner-up Vega Magic at the top of betting on $7. In Her Time and Trapeze Artist are $8 while Redzel and Shoals are on the $9 line.
But there are still plenty of twists and turns to come with the announcement on Saturday that the Australian Turf Club parted ways with its Everest runner Nature Strip following the sprinter’s flop at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
The ATC is set to confirm a replacement in the next few days and it is also expected that Max Whitby and Neil Werrett will lock their horse in shortly to complete the field.
Invincible Star dropped out to beat one home after racing outside Redzel but it is understood slot holder GPI Racing will stick with the mare.