Joe Pride’s Shannon Stakes winning four-year-old Rock Sturdy is now the firm favourite to win this weekend’s Epsom Handicap 2014 at Royal Randwick.
Over the weekend at Rosehill the Fastnet Rock stallion improved on a last start second behind Manawanui in the Bill Ritchie Handicap to win the Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m) in Sydney.
Now he’s on track for the short seven day turnaround with Pride likely to run him again, this time in elite level company for the first time, in the $500,000 Group 1 The Star Epsom Handicap (1600m) this Saturday.
The field for the Epsom doesn’t come out until Wednesday but early betting markets at Ladbrokes.com.au for the showdown, one of three Group 1s on the Randwick race card, are led by Rock Sturdy at $3.80.
That’s a price that was slashed post his Shannon Stakes success and one connections are hoping he can live up to.
There are then four other single figure hopes in the all-in Epsom Handicap betting odds including $5 second pick Royal Descent for Sydney’s leading trainer Chris Waller.
The flying Redoute’s Choice mare may not have won a race since the 2013 Australian Oaks but the bookies are taking no chances with her here on the back of three top runs for the season.
She’s earned the tag of perennial runner-up having finished second in all three of her runs this time in, most recently behind stable mate Sacred Falls in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) on September 20.
The George Main Stakes has been the most accurate form line to follow for the Epsom in recent years too which has produced four of the past 10 winners.
The only horse to complete the George Main Stakes – Epsom Handicap double in that time however was Racing To Win (2006).
Waller dominates the top half of the futures Epsom Handicap markets with two others under $10 to win with He’s Your Man ($6) and Boban ($7).
Imported French gelding He’s Your Man has won two of his past three runs, the latest being over the 2000m at Rosehill when defeating Kingdoms by one and a quarter lengths in the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes.
Multiple Group 1 winning stablemate Boban meanwhile is the heaviest weighted of Waller’s hopes outside of Sacred Falls (59kg) who is an unlikely acceptor, with 58kg.
Royal Descent gets in on 55.5kg while the favourite Rock Sturdy was on the 52kg minimum when Epsom Handicap weights were first released.
Bernardini five-year-old Boban has had two Group 1 runs in Melbourne this time in for two fifth place finishes behind Dissident in both the Memsie Stakes and Makybe Diva Stakes, the later run over the 1600m at Flemington on September 13.
Toydini for Team Hawkes then rounds out the top five at $7.50 the five-year-old having run eighth in the George Main, before the John Thompson-trained Group 3 Cameron Handicap winner Hooked ($15) and Toydini’s stablemate Ninth Legion ($15), who ran third in both the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes and Shannon Stakes at Rosehill this month.
Stay tuned to Races.com.au for all the latest on the Epsom Handicap this year including news and the field out on Wednesday.
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