By Ray Hickson
Like just about every trainer, Bjorn Baker is keen to be part of the TAB Everest and he’s preparing classy three-year-old Overpass and under-rated mare Belluci Babe to press their cases to slot holders in the spring.
Expressway Stakes winner Overpass is not far from returning to Baker’s stable and will likely take the traditional path toward the $15m TAB Everest by running in races like the Group 2 Shorts (1100m) and Group 2 Premiere Stakes (1200m) in the month prior to the October 15 sprint classic.
“He’s just started back in pre-training and we’re going to have a red hot crack,’’ Baker said.
“He was a very good fifth in the TJ and he was unlucky in the Galaxy, he didn’t get clear air and would have gone close in that.
“Overpass is just reaching his pinnacle, he’s a four-year-old next season and is only going to get better.”
Last spring Overpass signalled he was a horse on the rise with a cheeky sixth in the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes behind Home Affairs and confirmed that standing by downing Forbidden Love and Anamoe in the Expressway at the end of January.
He hasn’t raced since a midfield finish in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes and Baker said if he can find a surface better than heavy in the spring it will be his best chance to press for an Everest slot.
Overpass is a $34 chance in TAB’s all-in market and while stablemate Belluci Babe isn’t listed in current betting Baker is adamant she can surprise a few next preparation.
The rising six-year-old came a long way this season, starting it in a Benchmark 78 and wrapping up as a Group 3 winner, dual Group 2 placegetter and with fourth placings in two major Group 1 sprints.
Baker plans to kick her campaign off possibly in the Group 2 Missile Stakes (1200m), won two years ago by Eduardo on his way to an Everest berth, in August.
“Belluci Babe was a very good fourth in both the Galaxy and the TJ Smith. I think she has come back bigger and better,’’ he said.
“The TJ Smith is the best form to go to the Everest and I have two horses that have run fourth and fifth as a bit of an afterthought.
“Things can change so you have to be open right to the end, if we are there and we are going well who knows.”
Four Everest slots have been locked away so far – Nature Strip (Chris Waller Racing), Masked Crusader (Whitby/Werrett), Eduardo (Yulong) and Mazu (The Star & Arrowfield). Classique Legend’s owner Bon Ho has a slot while Godolphin and Coolmore would be expected to pick from their own stock so there are still several slots up for grabs.