This weekend Sydney’s premier trainer Chris Waller will use the Epsom Handicap at Randwick as the final lead-up into the Cox Plate 2014 in Melbourne next month for his smart mare Royal Descent.
The 2013 ATC Oaks winning daughter of Redoute’s Choice is one of a host of top fancied hopes from the Waller stables entered for this year’s $500,000 Group 1 The Star Epsom Handicap (1600m).
Markets for the Royal Randwick classic are currently led by last weekend’s Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m) winning four-year-old Rock Sturdy ($3.80).
Hot on his heels in the all-in Epsom Handicap odds are then a Waller-trained trio led by Royal Descent ($5).
She’s followed closely by French import He’s Your Man ($6) coming off a win in the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) and multiple Group 1 winner Boban ($7).
Waller has ambitious plans, as always, with Royal Descent who hasn’t won a race since the Australian Oaks over the mile and a half by 10 lengths back in April last year in the mud.
Always honest, she’s been right up there with the best on a number of occasions since then however including her close fifth when beaten under two lengths by Fawkner in the Caulfield Cup last Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.
She’s Victorian bound again this season after the Epsom, but this year it is Moonee Valley’s weight-for-age $3 million Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) on October 25 she’s targeting.
In futures Cox Plate betting at Ladbrokes.com.au she sits as a $21 outsider with markets led by her Caulfield Cup conqueror last year, the Robert Hickmott-trained Fawkner ($7.50).
Waller’s dual Doncaster Mile champion and Epsom Handicap top-weight Sacred Falls (59kg) then is a $9 second pick along with the Peter Moody-trained Dissident.
Dissident suffered his first loss this time in on Sunday when runner-up to Trust In A Gust by the narrowest of margins in the Group 1 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield, the Sebring four-year-old losing few admirers after the run.
Back to Royal Descent then, she may be at a juicy price in the early Cox Plate markets but Waller is hoping that can change with a win in the Epsom on Saturday.
It’s a path used by another great mare before her with Sunline winning the first of her two Cox Plate trophies in 1999 on the back of a final lead-up in the Epsom.
Other mighty Cox Plate winning mares to come via the Sydney handicap the month before are then Dane Ripper (1997) and Pinker Pinker (2011).
Another connection with Sunline for Royal Descent is that her owner Gerry Harvey’s racing manager Claire Bird, was also the strapper of the 1999-2000 Cox Plate winning mare.
Waller then is hoping his plan to have Royal Descent in the same top form she was in Sydney for the Cox Plate works out, and that the gaps between runs work to her strengths as he didn’t want to over-train her.
“I don’t think she needs hard racing and that mile (in the Epsom Handicap) will just top her off with three weeks to the Cox Plate with just a couple of Moonee Valley gallops in between,” he told AAP.
“Had I run her in the Turnbull Stakes and then given her some of those tough Moonee Valley gallops as well there’s a chance of over-training her.
“There’s a Claire Bird-Sunline connection there with Royal Descent and Gerry Harvey and it wasn’t hard to sell the option to them.”
Waller will not be running Sacred Falls in the Epsom Handicap field this year but will still have four chances with Royal Descent, Boban and He’s Your Man joined by Lucky Chappy.
A $41 roughie in betting, High Chaparral six-year-old Lucky Chappy was last seen running fourth to stablemate He’s Your Man in the Kingston Town Stakes in mid-September.
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