Up-and-coming Gunnedah trainer Shane Everson is on a mission with his well-bred stayer Starlist, giving the galloper the chance to stake their Grafton Cup claims by racing in this Thursday’s prelude at the opening July Carnival meeting.
Five-year-old Starlist will line up from barrier 10 of 11 in the $17,000 Grafton Cup Prelude (2108m) with jockey Matthew Paget aboard, the gelding looking to secure their spot in the $150,000 grand final Thursday week.
One two black-type features of the XXXX Gold July Carnival along with the Ramornie Handicap, the Listed Grafton Cup (2350m) is an ambitious aim for Starlist this prep and a win in the Clarence River Jockey Club’s showcase event would be a dream come true for Everson, 28, and his boss John Shelton.
With experience and a solid record at Grafton, Starlist will look to add a sixth win to their name when they make their 37th appearance in the Prelude, but would have to put in a career-best performance for Everson to enter them for the Grafton Cup.
“Realistically he won’t go into the Grafton Cup unless he won (the Prelude) impressively,” Everson, who races Starlist on lease with his brother Jeremy and Newcastle owner Judy Maynard, said.
“I wouldn’t throw him in just to make up the numbers.”
Last start Starlist was brave in the slow going of the Murwillumbah Cup (2000m) finishing sixth lengths away fifth behind winner, fellow Grafton Cup-bound Warrior Within.
“His run in the Murwillumbah Cup on a shifty track, which he doesn’t like, was very good,” Everson said.
“In the Cup they poured the pressure on from the 1000 metres.
“He was entitled to stop but he kept whacking away, went across the line with a couple of others, just beaten for third.”
Prior to the Murwillumbah Cup, Starlist ran a devastatingly close third beaten less than half a length in a 1618m Benchmark 64 at Grafton.
This was their only defeat at Grafton having earlier won their previous two starts at the track in April and February of this year.
“He loves just walking across the road to race,” Everson said in relation to his stable’s close proximity to the Grafton track.
Starlist’s other run this prep was an eye-catching third place finish behind In A Bind on a slow Casino track in the Casino RSM CLB Beef Week Cup (1400m) on May 27, which came first-up from a 33 day break.
“He turned in a ripper at Casino, then just knocked up a bit at Grafton,” Everson said.
“He’s been a bit underdone going into each race.”
Despite their potential, Everson knows the horse still has plenty of learning to do despite being a rising six-year-old.
“He’s a big dopey bugger, 12 months away from peaking,” Everson said.
“But this (the Prelude) is the race I’ve set him for, tried to time his preparation to be at his best Thursday.
“He’s come a long way since winning a Class 1 at a non-TAB meeting at Moree (in December 2010) to running in a Murwillumbah Cup.”
Although Thursday will be a tough test, Everson believes Starlist will race competitively in the Grafton Cup Prelude having put in an encouraging effort in recent trackwork.
“He galloped good Monday, seems to be at the top of his game,” Everson said optimistically.
“At this stage he’s doing everything right.
“If he gets a dry track at Grafton, the weather looks good, that’s right up his alley.”