A career-threatening injury has ruled the Joe Pride-trained favourite Rock Sturdy out of the field for Saturday’s Epsom Handicap 2014 with final acceptances for Saturday’s Royal Randwick feature taken this morning.
There are 15 horses making up the final field for this year’s $500,000 Group 1 The Star Epsom Handicap (1600m) with the most notable non-omission being Rock Sturdy.
Sitting top of the futures Epsom Handicap odds at Ladbrokes.com.au all week, the Fastnet Rock four-year-old secured favouritism for the Sydney Spring Racing Carnival feature when winning the Group 2 Shannon Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill last Saturday.
Pride however is now concerned the in-form stallion could now be ruled out of racing forever after suffering a suspensory ligament injury on Wednesday morning.
“I’m still waiting to get him scanned but it doesn’t look good unfortunately,” Pride told TVN.
“These injuries are never good but I think it might be over.”
To ensure the stable is still represented in Saturday’s feature, Pride has opted to accept for Laser Hawk in the Epsom Handicap over the $125,000 Group 3 Craven Plate (2000m) for which the last start George Main Stakes third placegetter was also nominated for.
The best represented trainer in the Epsom Handicap field meanwhile is four-time Sydney premiership winner Chris Waller with four in the mix including the defending champion Boban.
Boban leads the Epsom Handicap field and weights, the triple Group 1 winner to carry 58kg which is a full five kilos more than the light 53kg he carried to victory in the mile feature 12 months ago.
The Bernardini five-year-old comes off two fifth place finishes behind Dissident in Melbourne this season at Group 1 level, most recently at Flemington over the mile on September 13 in the Makybe Diva Stakes.
The best fancied of Waller’s four Epsom hopes meanwhile is smart mare Royal Descent, the daughter of Redoute’s Choice allocated 55.5kg.
She also comes via a top three run in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) at the track a fortnight ago like Laser Hawk having crossed second behind her Caulfield Stakes-bound stablemate Sacred Falls.
Four of the past 10 Epsom Handicap winners had their final lead-up in the George Main Stakes so the form is there for Waller’s consistent mare who is also a dual Doncaster Mile runner-up.
Waller’s fancies are then rounded out by exciting French import He’s Your Man who gets in on just 52.5kg with ace Brazilian hoop Joao Moreira riding and roughie shot Lucky Chappy.
Both He’s Your Man and Lucky Chappy come into the Epsom on the back of a run in the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes (2000m) from September 13 having run first and fourth respectively.
Another top fancy in Epsom Handicap betting is then the Michael, Wayne & John Hawkes-trained Toydini who ran third in the race last year for the late Guy Walter.
Toydini was last seen finishing eighth in the George Main Stakes, a disappointing lead-up and one the stable hopes he improves on with the addition of blinkers this Saturday.
Also in the field for Team Hawkes is Fastnet Rock five-year-old Ninth Legion who gets in on the 52kg, stable mate Toydini on 55.5kg, which is a massive drop from the 58.5kg he had when third to Rock Sturdy in the Shannon Stakes seven days earlier this Saturday.
Other notable hopes then include Underwood Stakes graduate Star Rolling (53kg), the David Payne-trained duo of Honorius (52.5kg) and Brian Smith’s Queensland visitor Jetset Lad (52kg).
The 2014 Epsom Handicap barrier draw will be conducted live from 10:15am with the gates to be published soon after here at Races.com.au stay tuned.
In the meantime get ready to back your favourites at the best prices in the Group 1s on Saturday by opening an account with Ladbrokes.com.au and having your first deposit matched 100% up to $500 when you use the promo code SPRINBONUS!
2014 Epsom Handicap Field
1. Boban (58)
2. Royal Descent (55.5)
3. Toydini (55.5)
4. Laser Hawk (53.5)
5. Star Rolling (53)
6. He’s Your Man (52.5)
7. Honorius (52.5)
8. Hooked (52)
9. Ninth Legion (52)
10. Lucky Chappy (52)
11. Jetset Lad (52)
12. Liberty’s Choice (52)
13. Pheidon (52)
14. Woodbine (52)
15. Spy Decoder (52)