By Ray Hickson
There are no guarantees when it comes to The TAB Everest and that’s something connections of dual winner Redzel are aware of as they hope to pull off a threepeat later this year.
But it’s a back to square one scenario for the rising seven-year-old in 2019 after a winless autumn means he’ll need to prove his worth to slot holders as he did in the lead up to the inaugural running.
By this time last year Redzel had already been snapped up by Yulong Investments to defend his Everest crown, which he ultimately did, but his shock last start defeat in the Victory Stakes a month ago, at the hands of I Am Excited, cast doubt on whether he’s the same horse.
Team Redzel is used to keeping the faith – the gelding had to overcome a setback in 2018, forcing him to miss a vital lead-up, then rebound from a defeat two weeks before The Everest.
Triple Crown’s Michael Ward said, as Redzel prepares to return to the Peter and Paul Snowden stable next week, the focus is on proving any doubters wrong for the second year running.
“You have to perform when you come back in the spring,’’ Ward said.
“That’s the challenge for everybody, you have to perform and perform first-up. Hopefully he can prove it on the racetrack and deserve his spot in the race.
Redzel wins the 2018 The Everest at Royal Randwick
“We’d love to be there again, it’s been an experience of a lifetime winning it twice. We know how good the event can be and I think everybody in the industry wants to be at the Everest.’’
Redzel’s autumn kicked off promisingly with an unlucky second in the Challenge Stakes but he failed on a heavy track under top weight in The Galaxy and could only finish sixth, five lengths behind Santa Ana Lane, after leading the TJ Smith.
“He didn’t quite perform to the expectations we had in his subsequent couple of runs after The Galaxy,’’ Ward said.
“Santa Ana Lane was dominant in the TJ but the rest were a tight bunch.’’
It wasn’t until one month before the inaugural Everest in 2017 that James Harron locked Redzel in after wins in The Shorts and a first-up success in the Concorde Stakes.
And it’s the Group 3 Concorde Stakes (1000m), run on September 7, which will be Redzel’s chance to show he’s still one of the nation’s best sprinters by winning the race for the third straight year.
Ward said a thorough check of Redzel revealed enough to say there might have been excuses at least for his Victory Stakes defeat.
“We went over him with the vet, did every test known to man and came back with a couple of maintenance things we’ll address next prep,’’ he said.
“Knowing what we know now and the improvement we feel we can get out of him going into the spring we have a fair bit of optimism.
“He hasn’t been over raced, there should be plenty of racing left in him.’’
So far three horses have been secured to run in the $14 million The TAB Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on October 19 – All Aged Stakes winner Pierata (Aquis), TJ Smith Stakes winner Santa Ana Lane (TAB) and exciting Arrowfield Sprint winner Classique Legend (Bon Ho & Carmel Size Racing).
But part of the theatre of The Everest is in the fact that, while deals are done to lock in horses for the race most have performance clauses and in 2018 three horses were substituted due to below par form.
The Australian Turf Club initially selected Nature Strip but when he was well beaten in the Moir Stakes secured Godolphin’s Home Of The Brave, who also had to be replaced when a temperature forced him out and stablemate Osborne Bulls stepped up.
Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott at one stage had two runners but were left with none after GPI Racing dropped Invincible Star for Le Romain while a disappointing gallop saw connections of English allow Damion Flower to replace her with Viddora.
It’s amazing to think Redzel has won 14 races, two Group 1s, two Everests and $15.6m in prizemoney and still needs to impress but that’s the way the ever-changing Everest game is played.