By Ray Hickson
Golden Rose placegetter Graff will be the first three-year-old colt to tackle The TAB Everest.
Slot holders Max Whitby and Neil Werrett haven’t been afraid to look outside the box in 2018 and bring a fresh angle into the $13 million race.
Of course they originally settled on boom sprinter Menari but he unfortunately broke down and had to be retired, forcing a rethink.
In Graff, Whitby said he has a young horse and a trainer (Kris Lees) he believes in – especially after results over the weekend opened The Everest right up.
“I think this bloke has something special about him,’’ Whitby said.
“Kris has been pushing me for weeks about him and he was unlucky at Rosehill the other day, it wasn’t the best ride.
“We’ve got a fresh horse. I’ve been chasing him a bit but the owner Alan Bell has been overseas. Alan has been fantastic, very co-operative and done a good deal.’’
Three three-year-olds contested The Everest last year – Tulip, Houtzen and She Will Reign with the former faring best in fifth.
Graff has had just the five starts for three wins including the Group 3 San Domenico Stakes (1100m) in August.
He endured a wide run in losing his unbeaten record in the Run To The Rose before running third in the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) behind The Autumn Sun.
It’ll be a good test of the quality of this season’s three-year-olds and Whitby suspects they are above average.
In a wide open TAB Epsom market, Graff is a $13 chance behind Premiere Stakes winner Santa Ana Lane and last year’s runner-up Vega Magic, who ran for Whitby in the inaugural Everest, on $7.
“Hasn’t it been turned upside down,’’ he said.
“We knew the Moir was going to be interesting and the Premiere and now we have a $7 favourite.
“But look at Tulip last year, she had 51kg and ran fifth and on potential this bloke is twice the horse.’’
Graff’s inclusion in The Everest gives Lees two runners as he joins In Her Time, a first-up third in the Premiere, at Randwick on October 13.
Whitby and Lees are yet to confirm a jockey to ride Graff at the 53kg.
“The first bloke that comes to mind is Craig Williams but after me potting him on Vega last year I might have to bite my tongue,’’ Whitby joked.
“I’ve known Kris since he’s a boy and I really believe in him. He’s going to have a bit of fun especially after In Her Time’s run on Saturday, what a run that was.’’
Lees said Graff shouldn’t be underestimated despite his inexperience.
He has a solid 1400m race under his belt and if he draws favourably he’s confident the colt will be competitive.
“He provides a bit of X-factor, a three-year-old with 53kg, and he could surprise,’’ Lees said.