Gai Waterhouse is on the cusp of having her first The Everest starter in four years with slotholder James Kennedy closing in on an 11th-hour deal for Embracer to run in the $15 million sprint at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Kennedy, who originally opted for crack Queensland sprinter Rothfire before trainer Robert Heathcote pulled the pin after his last-start failure in the Premiere Stakes, has been scrambling for a replacement representative.
Embracer is poised to be just Gai Waterhouse’s second runner in The Everest.Credit:Getty
And the Herald and The Age have been told by sources with knowledge of the situation that Embracer is in pole position to secure the slot, with Peter and Paul Snowden’s Signore Fox an outside contender.
Embracer finished third behind Masked Crusader in the Premiere Stakes, grabbing Kennedy’s attention as he made a shortlist of contenders last week which included group 1 winner Zoutori and Mark Newnham’s up-and-coming sprinter Big Parade.
Hall of Fame trainer Waterhouse, who prepares Embracer in partnership with co-trainer Adrian Bott, hasn’t had a runner in The Everest since English finished sixth behind Redzel in the inaugural edition in 2017.
But the reunion of Australian racing’s most recognisable face with the marketing machine that is The Everest will be a match made in heaven for promoters, who will stage the race in front of a capped crowd with strict COVID restrictions at Royal Randwick.
It will be Sydney’s first major event since the end of lockdown.
Embracer’s likely ascent to the race will leave just one runner to be confirmed with Godolphin to decide between three-year-old colt Paulele and veteran sprinter Trekking on Monday. Jockey Josh Parr is on standby to ride Trekking.
Paulele enhanced his claims with victory in the group 2 Roman Consul Stakes on Saturday, but Godolphin Australia boss Vin Cox will discuss the merits of running the three-year-old with head trainer James Cummings just five days out from the race.
Yes Yes Yes won the race as a three-year-old in 2019 under Glen Boss, who will team up with another Coolmore-owned colt in Home Affairs this year.
Embracer is yet to be tested in group 1 company, but has been placed in all three starts at either group 2 or group 3 level in his career to date.
Gai Waterhouse hasn’t had a runner in The Everest since 2017.Credit:Getty Images
Kennedy was impressed with his fast-finishing effort in the Premiere Stakes as he just shaded Tabcorp’s Everest representative, Lost And Running, into third behind Masked Crusader.
Defending champion Classique Legend is a $4 favourite with Sportsbet to win The Everest from former Australian Horse of the Year Nature Strip ($4.80).
Meanwhile, the Australian Turf Club’s general manager of racecourses Nevesh Ramdhani has forecast the track for The Everest day is likely to be in the soft range with Sydney facing its wettest day in weeks on Monday.
“It’s a tricky one,” Ramdhani said. “At this stage it looks like we’ll probably get about 20 to 25 millimetres of rain for the week. Saturday is looking reasonable, but I say that with my fingers crossed and knocking on wood.
“If we get two or three millimetres every day from Tuesday through to Friday, it will probably push us into the soft range because it’s just going to sit there. I’m still thinking we’ll maybe be on a [Soft] 5, but that’s based on the current forecast and that can change.”
The barrier draw for the world’s richest race on turf will be held on Tuesday.
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