Winter heats up with spring-loaded stars
Classique Legend announced himself as an Everest contender, Opacity is on the Epsom Handicap and Golden Eagle trail, Achiever will be set for the Spring Champion Stakes and Snitz is right in the mix for The Kosciuszko.
It's not the time of season in Sydney when you expect to see so many potential big-race contenders to be racing but this spring carnival snapshot came from a Royal Randwick midwinter meeting last Saturday.
Although most jockeys felt the track surface was in the heavy range, not the soft 7 which was the official rating, it didn't prevent Classique Legend from making an outstanding return to racing in the Listed Bob Charley Stakes.
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"To be top class, Classique Legend had to beat those horses even if he was a bit underdone,'' trainer Les Bridge said.
"Good horses can do that.
"He's got a slot in The Everest which takes a lot of pressure off me. I just have to sit down and work out a path to the race.''
Bridge said Classique Legend won't race again this season but he is likely to keep the grey sprinter in his Randwick stables during winter.
"I won't run him again in the immediate future but I'll probably keep him in light work, he loves being in the stables,'' Bridge said.
The maestro said he will give Classique Legend two lead-ups in The Shorts and Premiere Stakes before the $15 million The TAB Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on October 17.
"He will follow the same program as last spring into The Everest,'' Bridge said.
"But I always said on that first Everest preparation last year that he was still a light, immature horse and would be better later on.
"He has filled out and strengthened up like you wouldn't believe since and looks a different horse now.''
The John O'Shea-trained Opacity is a very talented rising four-year-old and improved his record to five wins from seven starts when he defeated older horses in the Randwick closer.
O'Shea, who is putting together a promising team of emerging young horses, has a big opinion of Opacity with designs of setting him for the Epsom Handicap-Golden Eagle double that Kolding achieved last spring.
Chris Waller gave Achiever his imprimatur as a rising staying talent after winning the two-year-old race and Snitz firmed to second favouritism for The Kosciuszko after ran so well for third to Classique Legend.
Get ready for Everest entrant explosion
Nature Strip remains the only confirmed runner in The TAB Everest when usually three or four slots at least are filled by now.
But the remaining 11 starting positions for the world's richest turf race will begin to fill up fast with slot-holder negotiations picking up pace.
Classique Legend can now effectively be included as an Everest runner as his owner, Bon Ho, has a slot in the world's richest turf race. Barring injury, the big, grey sprinter will be there in The Everest field.
Bivouac is favoured to take Godophin's slot, Golden Slipper winner Farnan is the frontrunner for owner Aquis's slot, while slot-holder Inglis is understood to be looking closely at Adelaide sprinter Gytrash and Melbourne's flying filly Rubisaki.
There has also been slot-holder interest in boom three-year-olds Alligator Blood and Masked Crusader.
Rothfire, the runaway winner of the JJ Atkins Stakes at Eagle Farm last Saturday, has also vaulted into The Everest contention.
Trainer Robert Heathcote said there have been initial discussions with slot-holder MiRunners and he is "very serious" at setting the brilliant rising three-year-old for The Everest.
"I was never sure how good Rothfire was but what he did (Saturday) was quite emphatic,'' Heathcote said.
"I remember his first-ever win and the ratings specialist, Daniel O'Sullivan, tweeted out a really high rating.
"Yes Yes Yes won The Everest last year as a three-year-old and Rothfire has a very similar rating to him.''
Heathcote said Rothfire will have a short spell and then be aimed at the Golden Rose and The Everest in Sydney during the spring.
Rothfire has won six of his seven starts during his two-year-old season prompting Heathcote to compare his young sprinter to former stable star, Buffering, winner of 20 races including seven at Group 1 level for more than $7 million prizemoney.
"Buffering will go down in the hearts of many because of his toughness, he was always in there having a dig and Rothfire is the same,'' Heathcote said.
"I've certainly got a beauty here with Rothfire.''
Avdulla rediscovers mojo
Brenton Avdulla proved once again the merit of the sporting adage: "Form is temporary, class is permanent".
Avdulla was having one of those lean trots that all jockeys - and sports people - experience during their careers as the winners dried up in the last two months.
His losing streak was up to nearly 80 rides but he found his mojo again with a treble at Royal Randwick on Achiever, Princess Cordelia and Dealmaker.
As a former Sydney premiership-winning jockey, Avdulla is a proven talent and punters can follow him with confidence through the winter.
Legitimate excuses for rank failures
Acrophobic, Burning Crown and Enfleurage started favourite but were rank failures in their respective Randwick races last Saturday.
There were legitimate excuses for each. Post-race, Acrophobic was found to be displaying signs of cardiac arrhythmia, Burning Crown couldn't handle the heavy track and Enfleurage was coughing.
But favourite backers didn't need to read the stewards report to realise Kirwan's Lane and Keen Power raced without any luck.
Rosehill opening up to members
Some owners were allowed back on track at Royal Randwick and the Australian Turf Club is now extending the invitation for club members to return to the races at Rosehill Gardens next Saturday.
The ATC offer is on a "first in, first served" basis as only a limited number of members and owners will be at the Rosehill meeting where they will be confined to dining and hospitality areas to comply with the strict Public Health Order guidelines to combat coronavirus.
Winx half-sister no guarantee to start
Trainer Chris Waller is in two minds about whether to send Winx's half-sister, Covent Gardens, to the races for the first time at Warwick Farm on Monday.
Covent Gardens, a two-year-old filly by Exceed And Excel out of Winx's dam, Vegas Showgirl, has been entered for the Sky Racing Active Plate (1200m).
Bred and raced by John Camilleri, Covent Gardens has shown promise in barrier trials in recent weeks and Winx's regular jockey, Hugh Bowman has been booked for the ride.
But Covent Gardens is drawn out wide in barrier 13 and Waller has also nominated the youngster for Canterbury on Wednesday as he considers options for the blue blood filly.
English star loses unbeaten record
Pinatubo, the much-hyped Godolphin three-year-old, lost his unbeaten record when finishing third to Kameko in the Group 1 English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket over the weekend.
Trainer Charlie Appleby indicated Pinatubo is likely to be switched back to sprints with the St James's Palace Stakes (1400m) at Royal Ascot a likely option.
Kameko has firmed into favouritism for the Epsom Derby ahead of English King, who "Aussie Tom" Marquand rode to win the Derby Trial at Lingfield late last week.
Originally published as Winter heats up with spring-loaded stars