By Ray Hickson
If you can be quietly bullish, trainer Gerald Ryan is exactly that about the return of Everest favourite Trapeze Artist at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.
Never mind that the four-year-old has to set a new weight carrying benchmark of 61kg in the Group 2 $200,000 Theo Marks Stakes (1300m), Ryan says given a reasonable racing surface he sees no reason why Trapeze Artist can’t affirm his place as the horse to beat in The Everest.
Trapeze Artist has stacked on 25kg – weighing in at 566kg – since his back-to-back Group 1 wins in the autumn, including a track record in the All Aged Stakes, and Ryan is adamant he has the scope to go up a notch this time in.
“He’s a horse that was improving as he was going along, he improved from the autumn to the spring last year and the spring to the autumn this year,’’ he said.
“When you have three-year-olds improving like that you never know where they might end up. He doesn’t look heavier, just a bigger stronger horse.
“He’s always been sound, he’s never gone shinsore and the only flaw in his makeup is I don’t think he handles heavy tracks.’’
The $4.50 favourite for the $13 million TAB Everest (1200m) on October 13 was the first horse locked in by slot holder Aquis Farm back in late April.
Last weekend defending champion Redzel served a reminder that he’s returned in top form and now it’s up to Trapeze Artist to throw his own gauntlet down.
Ryan, who won the Theo Marks last year with what would be his Everest runner Deploy, is wary of the expectation on his horse and deliberately selected the race to kick off his Everest bid.
In modern times, the likes of Shogun Lodge (2001) and Racing To Win (2009) have carried 60kg to win the Theo Marks while back in the 1950s and 1960s both Caricoa and Time And Tide lumped the equivalent of 60.5kg and 60kg respectively to victory.
“Weight will stop a train but I knew when I picked this race out for him he was going to get 61kg and he’s giving some handy horses up to 8kg,’’ Ryan said.
“Given not worse than a soft 6 I expect the horse to win, even giving away weight. I am frightened of D’Argento, though, I have a lot of time for him.
“But it’s not his grand final and twice I’ve run him first-up, gone three weeks to his next run and he’s won third-up.’’
TAB opened Redzel at $2.80 for the Theo Marks on Wednesday ahead of D’Argento at $3.
Like Redzel, Trapeze Artist races in blinkers and they have been absent from his head in his two barrier trials ahead of his first-up run.
It’s something Ryan said he almost never uses on his horses in trials, preferring to keep the shades for race day, and finishing just over two lengths from Redzel, who wore blinkers, in his second trial is a big tick in the trainer’s books.
“I think his trials have been good, for him. They’ve been as good as he’s ever put in,’’ he said.
Trapeze Artist will have his second-up run, and final Everest lead up, in the Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) on September 29.
Looking back at the performances of five of his Everest rivals last weekend Ryan said they all performed creditably and will likely improve.
He has the utmost respect for Redzel but you get the sense he’s more than happy to have Trapeze Artist, who accounted for the Everest champ in the TJ Smith, in his care.