By Ray Hickson
Punter interest in The Everest is expected to intensify on Saturday as five contenders step out, along with a number of hopefuls pressing for one of the remaining two slots, in races at two venues.
TAB’s Gerard Middleton said The Everest, ahead of just its second running at Royal Randwick on October 13, is currently holding more than twice the amount of money than the Melbourne Cup.
With defending champ Redzel and Invincible Star clashing in the Group 3 Concorde Stakes (1000m) at Randwick, last year’s runner-up Vega Magic out to defend the Group 1 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield and Santa Ana Lane and Brave Smash, third in the Everest last year, contesting a Group 3 sprint also at Caulfield, there’s potential for the market to receive a jolt.
Add to those the likes of Kementari, Showtime and Le Romain who are also out to impress slot holders on Saturday along with Japanese wild card Kemodo.
“This weekend we’re expecting a big shake up in betting for The Everest,’’ Middleton said.
“Redzel has been kept very safe although the hold indicates Trapeze Artist overtook last year’s winner in the punters’ thoughts after winning the TJ Smith in the autumn.
“Lightly raced Invincible Star has won two trials heading into the 1000 metre event at Randwick, and the mare could really shoot near the top of the market should she have Redzel’s measure on Saturday.’’
TAB opened Redzel as the $1.70 favourite to make it back-to-back Concorde Stakes wins ahead of Invincible Star ($2.40) in what appears a two horse race.
Their Everest prices are $6 and $15 respectively so that gap will change depending on the result and the margin with Redzel carrying 60.5kg on Saturday compared to Invincible Star’s 56kg.
Trapeze Artist ($4.50) has been a long-time favourite for The Everest, Australia’s richest race at $13 million, and it’d take an exceptional performance to oust him from the top spot prior to his return in the Theo Marks on Saturday week.
He currently holds around 27 per cent of the market, Vega Magic 14 per cent, Nature Strip 13 per cent, Santa Ana Lane eight per cent and, surprisingly, Redzel just six per cent.
“Vega Magic has attracted good money in recent weeks, particularly after his first up win in the Bletchingly which proved to many he’s back to his best,’’ Middleton said.
“The two remaining slot holders will watch the Memsie with interest as Vega Magic provides an Everest yardstick for the likes of Happy Clapper, Kementari, and perhaps Showtime could put his hand up after winning the PB Lawrence last start.
“For all the boom on Kementari, there has been little interest with TAB on the Godolphin horse in our Everest market.
“The greatest query in our market though is Nature Strip as the Darren Weir-trained gelding has attracted good money all year but is yet to secure a slot in the race.’’
Despite only limited interest, Kementari is the equal third favourite at $8 and how he shapes up against Vega Magic could make or break his chances of gaining a slot.
Pierata, equal favourite in all-in betting for the Tramway Stakes at Randwick at $3.50, is a $15 chance in The Everest market but his trainer Greg Hickman has said he’s preferring to tackle Group 1 handicaps this spring.
The slot holders yet to lock in their runner are the Max Whitby/Neil Werrett group and the Australian Turf Club, whose 2017 runners filled the minor placings in the inaugural Everest.