By Ray Hickson
Three-time Group 1 winner Shoals served some notice that she could surprise a few critics come Everest day with a more forward than expected first trial on Monday.
The four-year-old took part in an 800m trial at Cranbourne alongside stablemate and fellow Everest runner Santa Ana Lane and finished a close second.
Santa Ana Lane wasn’t asked for anything by regular rider Ben Melham and beat one home.
Assistant trainer Sam Freedman said it was the first time the pair had left their Mornington base for the campaign so instructions were to have a quiet trial.
But he was taken aback by how forward Shoals trialled as she was nosed out by Ardrossan.
“Shoals shows good speed in her trials and she’s probably trialled the best she has for us,’’ Freedman said.
“Santa, that’s sort of him. We rode him to get some fitness rather than to hit the line.’’
Both Freedman gallopers are on the $15 line with TAB in its market for The Everest behind Trapeze Artist ($4.50) who is due to trial at Rosehill on Tuesday.
Defending champ Redzel kicked off his campaign with an easy second in an 800m trial at Gosford on Monday shortly after the two Victorians had trialled.
Freedman said Shoals and Santa Ana Lane will return to Cranbourne on August 20 for another, much stronger, trial before plans are confirmed for their first-up runs but added the stable couldn’t be happier with their condition.
“They’re not completely locked in, we’ll get a guide on where their fitness is at with the next trial,’’ he said.
“Whether Shoals has one run before the Moir we’re not sure but she’ll certainly run in the Moir then it’s three weeks to The Everest.
“Santa was up in Queensland so he has held his coat the whole way through. Shoals is a bit woolly at the moment but she trialled very well and they are both working as well as in previous preps.’’
Shoals, who will be ridden by Tim Clark in The Everest, hasn’t raced since she won the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville on May 5 where she made it three majors for the season.
Stradbroke winner Santa Ana Lane, who will have two runs prior to The Everest, also collected his third Group 1 for last season when he claimed Brisbane’s signature race on June 9.
Five days after Santa Ana Lane’s Stradbroke win, The Star snapped up Shoals as their Everest runner while Santa himself was secured by Inglis in early July.
There are nine confirmed runners in The Everest – Redzel, Trapeze Artist, In Her Time, English, Brave Smash, Vega Magic, U S Navy Flag, Shoals and Santa Ana Lane – and Freedman says it’s shaping up as a very hard race to win.
“It looks like it’s going to be the best sprint race in Australia and possibly the world,’’ he said.
“A lot of people criticised a few of the slot holders for going early but it allows trainers to map a path and know their end goal.
“We don’t have to prove anything with them going into The Everest.’’
The $13 million The Everest (1200m) is run at Royal Randwick on October 13.