March 25, 2023

Redzel faces uphill climb for Everest three-peat

Redzel (AUS)
Redzel winning the 2018 Everest (Courtesy of Sky Racing World)

The A$14 million Everest has known only one winner so far, but two-time defending champion Redzel arguably faces an uphill climb in the third running of the world’s richest turf race. As a measure of his task, Redzel ranks as the 9-1 fourth choice in Brisnet’s free Australian past performances for the Randwick feature set for 1:15 a.m. (EDT) Friday night.

The 12 Everest participants are running for, or teaming up, with slot holders who had purchased a spot in the starting gate, similar to the process governing the Pegasus World Cup (G1). Redzel is once again using the Yu Long Investments slot, as he did a year ago.

The current odds reflect the fact that Redzel must confront not only fresh challenges, but also conditions that will suit a past rival much better this time around. In last year’s Everest, a heavy track undermined Santa Ana Lane, who ran below his best in sixth. Since then, the Anthony Freedman charge has gone on to become Australia’s highest-rated sprinter and the antepost Everest favorite (using race sponsor TAB’s slot).

Santa Ana Lane scored his fifth career Group 1 tally in the April 6 T.J. Smith (G1) over this course and about six-furlong distance, emphatically dismissing Redzel, Sunlight, and Pierata. The Lope de Vega gelding has run well in defeat in both subsequent starts – a fourth in the April 28 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (G1) that didn’t set up well for him at Sha Tin, and a closing second to Sunlight in the October 5 Gilgai (G2) at Flemington as his warm-up. With an abundance of pace on tap and a good track, Santa Ana Lane promises to come rolling late.

Redzel, whose form declined last season, has bounced back with more characteristic efforts this preparation. The Snitzel gelding showed his front-running flair to turn a three-peat in the September 7 Concorde (G3), just holding on from the fast-finishing Pierata. Redzel then settled for third to Pierata and Classique Legend in The Shorts (G2) two weeks later. Trainers Peter and Paul Snowden weren’t so much concerned about that mere bridge to the Everest, where Redzel figures to be primed to peak. But so are others.

Pierata enters in the form of his life for trainer Greg Hickman. The son of Pierro could have been retired to stud following his Group 1 breakthrough in the April 20 All Aged (G1), but Aquis Farm opted to keep him in training to use its Everest slot. Pierata, runner-up in the Randwick Guineas (G1) before reverting to sprinting, made a splash on the 2018 Everest undercard. Dominating the Sydney S. (G3), he posted a time considerably faster than Redzel in the main event (1:10.82 versus 1:12.30). While Pierata was beaten by Santa Ana Lane in their meetings last term, the maturing five-year-old hints of putting up a stiffer fight.

Another Pierro, four-year-old filly Arcadia Queen, has been the market mover now overtaking Pierata for second favoritism. One of a trio representing trainer Chris Waller of Winx fame, the former Western Australia-based star captured her Sydney debut in the September 14 Theo Marks (G2). Arcadia Queen has lost only once in her seven-race career, but her marquee victory came in the Kingston Town Classic (G1) at about nine furlongs, and she hasn’t raced over this short a trip since her maiden. Stablemate Nature Strip barely lasted from Pierata in the Galaxy (G1) going shorter last March, and similarly looked for the wire when garnering the Moir (G1) in his latest. The free-wheeling type has his work cut out from post 12 in this spot. Waller also sends out the lone Southern Hemisphere three-year-old in the Everest, well-regarded Yes Yes Yes, the Todman (G2) winner who adds blinkers off a near-miss in the Golden Rose (G1). Yes Yes Yes is using Waller’s Everest slot, while James Harron Bloodstock has signed on for Nature Strip, and Arcadia Queen is flying The Star flag.

Yes Yes Yes is co-owned by Coolmore, and the international empire’s own slot is reserved for crack Northern Hemisphere sophomore Ten Sovereigns. The Aidan O’Brien pupil, who capped an unbeaten juvenile campaign in the 2018 Middle Park (G1), didn’t stay the mile in the 2000 Guineas (G1) and ultimately found his true home sprinting. That profile is reminiscent of U S Navy Flag, an Everest flop a year ago, but Ten Sovereigns at least will enjoy better weather. A dashing winner of the six-furlong July Cup (G1) at Newmarket, the No Nay Never colt was only sixth on the cutback to five in the Nunthorpe (G1) last out. Ryan Moore makes the trek to pilot Ten Sovereigns, thereby missing British Champions Day.

Godolphin is double-handed with high-class mare Alizee and the progressive Trekking, both based in Australia with James Cummings. Alizee clinched champion three-year-old filly honors for 2017-18 when adding the Coolmore Legacy (aka Queen of the Turf) (G1) during The Championships to an earlier score in the Flight (G1). Both of those are contested at a metric mile, and Alizee’s third Group 1 coup in the February 23 Futurity (G1), over older males, came at about seven furlongs. Yet her ability to fire fresh over six, and her proficiency around Randwick, make her a threat as she claims Godolphin’s slot. Trekking jumped into the Everest by capturing last Saturday’s Schillaci (G2) and picking up the Melbourne Racing Club slot. Reaching a new level since being gelded, the son of Street Cry is two-for-two at the Everest track and trip, notably taking the Hall Mark (G3) back in April, and he earned his Group 1 laurel in the June 8 Stradbroke H. (G1).

Aside from Alizee and Arcadia Queen, two other distaffers hope to make their presence felt – the aforementioned Sunlight (Max Whitby slot) and In Her Time (Inglis slot). Sunlight, who beat three-year-old males in last November’s Coolmore Stud (aka Ascot Vale) (G1), capitalized on weight breaks when toppling elders in both the Newmarket H. (G1) and William Reid (G1). The Tony and Calvin McEvoy filly encounters a new world at four, but her second-up victory in the Gilgai and her close third to Nature Strip in the Moir indicate she’s holding her own.

Like Santa Ana Lane, In Her Time wasn’t able to put her best foot forward in last year’s Everest, but she brings respectable form versus the favorite having missed narrowly to him in last year’s Premiere (G2) and VRC Sprint Classic (G1). Although the Kris Lees mare hasn’t been seen since finishing sixth to Sunlight in the March 9 Newmarket, In Her Time historically runs well fresh. Both of her Group 1 victories – the 2018 Galaxy and the Lightning (G1) in February – have come first up. And she has a point of commonality with Pierata as well: In Her Time landed the 2017 Sydney on that Everest undercard, in fractionally faster time than Redzel.

Classique Legend, the least experienced runner with just six career starts, appeared poised after his runner-up effort to Pierata in The Shorts. But his ensuing third to Brutal in the October 5 renewal of the Premiere reopened questions about whether the Everest is coming a bit too soon for him. On the other hand, the Les Bridge trainee had stamped himself as an exciting prospect in the course-and-distance Arrowfield 3YO Sprint (aka Royal Sovereign) (G2) during The Championships last April, and he has loads of upside for Bon Ho and Carmel Size Racing.

The Team Hawkes-trained Brutal is first on the also-eligible list for the Everest; if there are no defections, the O’Reilly colt will instead line up in the Sydney one race prior. As the Doncaster H. (G1) hero and runner-up to Winx in the George Ryder (G1), Brutal would add even more depth to the cast.

The remaining three also-eligibles are also engaged in the Sydney – Godolphin’s Home of the Brave, Champagne Cuddles, and Redzel’s stablemate Brave Song – and would be longshots if drawing into the Everest.

As an additional angle of intrigue, Sky Racing World is kindly offering a charity promotion, “Climbing the Everest.” TwinSpires is one of 12 North American racing entities that randomly drew an Everest interest to run in support of a charity  — and got Redzel. Should he score the three-peat, TwinSpires’ designated charity, the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center, will receive $5,000.

Check out the TwinSpires blog for much more Everest coverage!