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The Epsom Handicap 2012 at Royal Randwick this Saturday is shaping up as one of the toughest editions of the mile classic in many years but local horseman John O’Shea is excited about the chances of two double-figure hopefuls.
O’Shea, who won the Epsom with odds-on favourite Racing To Win back in 2006, will be represented in the $500,000 Group 1 feature this year by two less fancied runners with Lightinthenite and Gangster’s Choice drawn in barriers one and eight respectively in the 15-horse field.
“I prefer that (not being favourites),” O’Shea said.
“I think they are progressive young horses that sometimes can get under the guard and they are hard to measure because they are on upward spirals.
“In 12 months’ time you might reflect back on hopefully one or both of the horses and say, ‘how did they start 20/1 in an Epsom’, because they might end up pretty talented, well-performed horses.
“In an attempt to try to beat the handicapper a little bit you sort of want to run them when they are down in the weights.
“I’m not turning up there to make up the numbers.
“Both horses when they came into the stable at the start of their preparations, we had the intention to run them and have them run well in the Epsom.”
Current Epsom Handicap odds at bookmaker.com.au are led by the Gai Waterhouse-trained four-year-old Fat Al who is a 52kg lightweight chance paying $4.80.
Both of O’Shea’s runners are also on the 52kg minimum on Saturday with Galileo five-year-old Lightinthenite the best fancied of the duo paying $14 to win their first black type.
The lightly-raced gelding was last seen running a brave second defeated only a long neck by fellow Epsom rival Rolling Pin in the Group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m) at Newcastle on September 19 when ridden by James McDonald.
With McDonald partnering with reigning Epsom Handicap winner Secret Admirer ($8.50) on Saturday Lightinthenite will be ridden by Jim Cassidy.
“Jimmy’s in stellar form. We’ve forged a really good relationship recently,” O’Shea said.
And it is the Grahame Begg-trained defending champ Secret Admirer coming off a third in the George Main Stakes that O’Shea rates as the one to beat again this year.
“I think if you want to win the Epsom you’re going to have to beat her (Secret Admirer),” he said.
Their stablemate Gangster’s Choice meanwhile will be ridden by 21-year-old Jason Collett, the Stratum five-year-old also coming off a close second having carried 57.5kg to finishing runner-up over the track and distance a fortnight ago.
“Jason has ridden a bit for us, I’m just an admirer of his ability. I think he’s a wonderful young jockey,” O’Shea said.
Having their first start in stakes company this weekend Epsom Gangster’s Choice is one of the $61 roughies in the Epsom Handicap odds.
The other $61 outsider is the Ron Quinton-trained Monton coming off a below par ninth in the Cameron Handicap.
Catbird gelding Monton hasn’t won a race since the Group 2 Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Warwick Farm in December last year and on Saturday will be ridden by Kathy O’Hara who became the fourth female jockey in Australia to ride a Group 1 winner to victory when successful on Monton’s stablemate Ofcourseican in the Coolmore Classic back in March.
“He’s been incredibly loyal to me keeping me on that mare last time, and giving me another opportunity again in this horse,” O’Hara, who came close to winning an Epsom when guiding Johan’s Toy to finish second behind Desert War back in 2005 as an apprentice, said of Quinton.
“Ronny doesn’t owe me anything so I’m incredibly thankful for him to give me the opportunity to ride a horse like Monton.
“I’m hoping I can repay his loyalty.
“As a jockey you get on board knowing the (horse is) fit and prepared, and Ronny does that as well as anybody.
“I’ve seen (Monton) race and seen how he runs, and any little quirks that the horse has, I’ve no doubt Ronny will let me know.”
Whether it is one of the $61 roughies you are tipping for an Epsom Handicap upset, or you’re sticking with one of the shorties in the markets like George Main Stakes winner Shoot Out ($5.50) or their always honest stablemate Rangirangdoo ($7.50), you can bet bookmaker.com.au have the best prices.
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