By Ray Hickson
The idea of attempting Classique Legend’s TAB Everest defence first-up is growing on trainer Les Bridge as his race against time continues with the star grey.
It all hinges on a crucial second barrier trial at Randwick on Friday and Bridge said on Trek To The Everest on Tuesday night that what he sees in and after the 1050m trial will shape his decision.
He explained the ordeal Classique Legend went through to return to Australia from Hong Kong, including a two week stopover in New Zealand, took more out of the horse than expected and it’s cost him valuable time.
That’s why even though the six-year-old won a trial at Randwick on September 10 he wasn’t his normal self in Bridge’s eyes.
“He went from warm weather in Hong Kong to freezing cold in Auckland and when he got back to me he was very light in condition,’’ Bridge said.
“The worst thing you can do with a racehorse is try and play catch up so I’ve gone quietly and got him ready for that trial.
“I wasn’t jumping up and down after the trial, I thought he was ordinary by his standards. He blew like hell after the trial so I didn’t even nominate him for The Shorts.
“This time last year he would have put three lengths on those horses. I said it before, if I can get him at the same level physically and mentally as I had him last year I honestly believe I can win the race.”
Classique Legend galloped over 1000m on the Kensington track on Tuesday morning and it was after that gallop Bridge started to get an inkling that the horse is on the right track.
Bridge said he expects to see a different horse turn out in Friday’s trial where he’ll take on Everest hopeful Libertini, whose trainer Anthony Cummings is angling to run in the race first-up if he can gain a slot.
“I walked up the hill with him and that was the first time since he’s come back I’ve really been happy with him,’’ Bridge said.
“He walked up the hill not a care in the world.
“He’s got to get back to the old Classique Legend. The last 12 months hasn’t been ideal to get him ready for an Everest. If he does it, it’s because he’s a great horse.”
The grey’s dominance in the 2020 TAB Everest, where he ran out a 2-1/2 length winner, has him highly respected on the second line at $6 in TAB’s all-in market.
If Bridge decides to miss Saturday week’s Group 2 $500,000 Premiere Stakes (1200m) and aim at a first-up win he warns the horse has proven lethal when fresh in the past.
“I’m more inclined to go first-up,’’ Bridge said.
“He’s a great first-up horse, that’s what people forget. Anthony Cummings isn’t frightened to run Libertini first-up because he knows that’s her best run. Nothing silly about that and I’m in the same position.
“We’ve got to get over Friday first then we will worry about the Everest later.”