Libertini Emerges As Everest Threat But Bridge Has Legend Poised

By Ray Hickson

“He’ll win the Everest, mate.”

Those weren’t the words of Libertini’s trainer Anthony Cummings after the mare swept into TAB Everest calculations with a stunning Premiere Stakes win, but those of Les Bridge as he had to settle for second with Classique Legend.

Regan Bayliss and Libertini after the Premiere Stakes. Pic: Steve Hart

It took 1:07.63 for the TAB Everest picture to be blown wide open and for Libertini to announce her arrival as a serious sprinting force, and for questions to arise over Nature Strip who could only manage fourth.

While all the attention was poured on Libertini, Bridge quietly watched Classique Legend after the race and while disappointed he didn’t win he said the horse will be in perfect shape for the $15m TAB Everest (1200m) on October 17.

He said Kerrin McEvoy was left with no option but to keep in touch with the leaders, the grey ran 10.48 between the 800m and 600m, and it really didn’t suit him.

“The field concertinaed up and didn’t spread out,’’ Bridge said.

“He didn’t want Nature Strip to dictate the pace, you’ve got all these things in your mind. It was a good run. He’ll win the Everest.”

Libertini’s win in the Group 2 $500,000 Bisley Workwear Premiere Stakes (1200m) forced a major shake up of TAB Everest betting and she’s now pressing for favouritism at $6 after knocking over the two at the top of the market prior to the Premiere.

Classique Legend and Gytrash, who will have an exhibition gallop at Warwick Farm on Wednesday, are the $5 equal favourites with Nature Strip easing to $8.

Cummings said he’s trained the four-year-old more like a sprinter this spring and that reflected in the way she tracked into the race and let down sharply, putting the race away in a few strides.

“She is now a more mature article all together,’’ Cummings said.

“Last preparation wasn’t that flash, and a few issues came out of that, but we gave her the time and time nearly beat us again.

“Really pleased to see her back to that good form, that right form that shows us the horse that she is.”

Two slot holders are still to decide their TAB Everest runners, James Harron and Chris Waller Racing, and it’s only a matter of time before she’s confirmed in Australia’s richest race.

“She just has to go home, eat up and do well and back it up in two weeks time,’’ Cummings said.

“As much as we think she is going to improve on this the reality is she is doing what is required now.

“I started the prep well and truly thinking she could win the Everest, I thought she was capable last year, let’s hope we get to prove the point.”

Cummings confirmed jockey Regan Bayliss would ride Libertini in the Everest and the win was a huge one for the 23-year-old who has based himself with the Randwick trainer.

Libertini wins the Premiere Stakes at Randwick

Bayliss said when Classique Legend was trapped wide midrace he took advantage and stalked on Libertini and was supremely confident a long way from home.

“Once she got off the back she really let down,’’ Bayliss said.

“She loves these firmer tracks, I think she is four from four on them, and she’s a top class sprinter. She proved it today.

“I couldn’t wait to let her off the hatches today and it was a very good win against some of the top sprinters we have here in Australia so it’s very exciting.”

TAB Everest runners Tofane and Santa Ana Lane had their final lead-ups in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) at Flemington, finishing fifth and sixth repsectively behind Zoutori.

Tofane, who was secured by Yulong in the Everest, was beaten a length and had a hard luck story while Santa Ana Lane (Coolmore) was a length behind her. Tofane firmed to $17 with TAB while Santa Ana Lane eased to $21.