As we move ever closer to October and the big race itself, the trainers have by now formulated their Plan “A” route to The Everest and we will find many taking a similar path as they did last year. First up in the trials is The Concorde Stakes a Group Three race at Randwick over 1000 metres on Saturday 3rd September also the first race in the new Sydney Sprint Series. The race was first staged as a Group Three in 1997 and moved to Randwick in 2013 and despite its Group race status, it is probably now better known as an important trial for The Everest despite being over a different distance. It is a bit of a shame as it is a decent Group race in its own right.
As a Brit, one thing that is apparent on researching this race is that the training regimes in different racing jurisdictions train in different ways. It is highly unlikely that a British, American or European trainer would run horses over different distances on the lead up to the main objective, but the Australian trainers have no hesitation in doing just that, whatever the distances. A 1200m horse aimed at a 1200m event would generally be campaigned over that trip yet here we have some of the very best sprinters in Australia taking in a 1000m event en route to the big day over further. Are they right to do so? Judging by past winners of this race Nature Strip and Redzel, it does not do them any harm as they all went on to land the big prize after winning here so perhaps their training methods are well ahead of the rest of the world and that this approach may actually add more raw speed to the horse closer to the contest.
“It is the great Australian sprinter Nature Strip and James McDonald and look how far they’ve won by!” is how the commentator called the end of the prestigious Group One King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
A stunning performance from the gelding, but no great surprise to followers of Australian racing. But how will taking in that race affect his season? Is a round trip to the UK easy enough to recover from? Looking at four great Australian winners at previous Royal meetings, three went on to win at home first time after a break and the other, Scenic Blast, never won again, although that may have been down to taking in a race in Japan on firm ground, and a move to the US. Of those three horses, Miss Andretti had the shortest break of 126 days, Takeover Target 161 days on both occasions, (the other time he went on to Japan first) and Black Caviar 238 days and all were successful first up back in Australia.
Nature Strip will be back on familiar territory to defend his crown and by running in The Concorde, we will at least be able to derive whether he has returned from his trip to the Northern Hemisphere in top form or we may find out that the break of only around 80 days does not prove long enough.
Of course, the presence of Nature Strip could scare off one or two potential opponents and that means we may have a small field, although in the last ten runnings we have not seen more than nine runners go to post so a reduced number of runners would not be unusual. Maybe some trainers will chance running their charges here thanks to the new Sprint Series which requires participation in three of the designated races. Evidence that this is a hugely important trial for The Everest is indicated not just by the win of Nature Strip, but also by Redzel who completed the double twice and we also had Gytrash winning here before running a gallant third in The Everest.
The recent Group Two Missile Stakes would appear to be a perfect prep race for both The Concorde and The Everest, however a deep look at the race results shows that the last ten winners of The Concorde had not contested the Missile and also that the last ten winners of the Missile did not go on to run in The Concorde. The six most recent winners of The Concorde won after a break with just three of the last ten winners having taken in a prep race in the month before. Therefore, Forbidden Love who ran a bit below par in the recent Missile will have to defy those stats to win, that is if connections even decide to run and if they still have The Everest in mind as the long-term aim. She has since run down the field in the 1400 metres Group One Winx Stakes and connections seem to be stumped as to what to do with her at present. The other horse from the Missile who could go to Randwick is Count De Rupee who looked sure to come on for that run, but 1000 metres would appear to be a bit short for him and connections may decide to wait for The Shorts or more ideally The Premiere Stakes which is over a more suitable 1200m. He has huge potential as a sprinter and jockey Brock Ryan reported that he had sat too far out of his ground off a fast pace. Next time he will clearly try and sit closer, but The Concorde and The Everest will hardly be run at a crawl and there is again a danger of him getting outpaced
The Doomben 10,000 at Eagle Farm in May could be relevant here and Mazu held off Paulele in a thrilling finish on heavy ground. Both have the option to run here before tilts at The Everest. Paulele has won three times from four first up after a break and better ground would aid his chances. On three of those four occasions connections ran him over the shorter sprint trips, so The Concorde would certainly suit. Mazu is the one to consider if the ground comes up wet as six of his seven wins have come on heavy or soft tracks and he is improving all the time.
Lost And Running, Classique Legend and Masked Crusader are all being aimed at The Everest, but none ran in this last year preferring to start off in The Shorts, connections may have the same plan this year. John O’Shea is very bullish about Lost And Running believing him to be more streetwise this year. Two of those three horses have slots already and Classique Legend is also likely to be the chosen as the entry for Bon Ho.
One interesting horse that could be on the radar of the remaining slot holders is the Snitzel colt In The Congo trained by Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott who has had two recent trials. He beat Anamoe in the Group One Golden Rose last September and his best form ties in with Paulele and Mazu. His last run was disappointing when unplaced in a very strong Group One All Aged Stakes in April, but he has been given plenty of time and The Concorde would make an ideal starting place.
Artorius has been running at a high level in Europe and may not return ready for The Concorde but one who could make the leap to this level but will need some good runs in the established trials, is Overpass who recently did a barrier trial under Rachel King. All eyes will be on him if he goes to The Concorde, and he has a nice profile having been brought along steadily by Bjorn Baker to run a fine fifth behind Nature Strip in the TJ Smith in April. His Group Two form ties in with the top sprinters and although he may be better in twelve months, his shrewd trainer will surely eke out more improvement, and he may be no forlorn hope.
Concorde Stakes winners are usually top-class Group One sprinters, so all the usual protagonists are in the frame to run, Eduardo being one and we know all about him. Some “new kids on the block” will be looking to move up to the top level and two who would have leading chances, but at present connections have not indicated they will run, are Marabi and Joyful Fortune. The former would be a very interesting contender as she has solid form over 1100 metres, and she has won a Group One at Caulfield at that distance. She is on an extended break after her run in the Group One William Reid Stakes March where she was beaten, fading very quickly late on. The latter is an ex-Hong Kong trained gelding and he would have been of interest, but he is probably more likely to start his Australian career at Flemington. He is a very fast horse, and The Concorde would have been the ideal race for a horse that almost broke the track record at Sha Tin over 1000 metres. Whatever does turn up on the day, Australia continues to provide the world with top sprinters and long may that continue.
Distance 1,000 metres,Surface Turf,Track Right-handed,Qualification Horses three years old and older,Weight Set weights with penalties,Purse A$500,000 (2022)
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