The countdown to the Sydney Spring Racing...
The Epsom Handicap 2020 headlines the racing action in Sydney on Saturday and the early market mover out to defeat the favourite Star Of The Seas is the Hawkes Racing-trained Rock.
The Group 1 $1 million Epsom Handicap (1600m) field is down to 18 runners after a couple of early scratchings, and the price is firming on the well-weighted Pierro gelding Rock.
Rock has had three previous Randwick runs for just the one third and is yet to win over further than 1500m, but that hasn’t stopped the punters backing him in from $9 to $6 to take out the Group 1 mile feature.
Drawn gate 13 with Tommy Berry retaining the ride, the galloper comes off a last start Newcastle win in the Group 3 Cameron Handicap (1500m).
He won that by nearly four lengths with 55.5kg and drops three kilos as he rises in grade and distance on the weekend as a genuine hope to upset the Team Waller.
Trainer Chris Waller has prepared four of the past seven Epsom Handicap winners including Kolding (2019) last season, the defending champion one of two scratched by Waller from Saturday’s field along with Reloaded.
The stable is still in the mix with a strong six-horse contingent led by the firm favourite in Epsom Handicap betting, Star Of The Seas.
Drawn the rails with Nash Rawiller to ride, the Ocean Park six-year-old has a history of frustrating Group 1 seconds on his record including his two runs this spring.
First-up he was a nostril-flare off stablemate Verry Elleegant as a 30/1 outsider in the Group 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) before jockey Sam Clipperton had to settle for second again this time a quarter-length off Kolding in the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m).
The markets on the Epsom suggest that Star Of The Seas can finally shine and enter the winners’ stall on the weekend, odds on the horse shortening in from $6 to $4.80.
Between Star Of The Seas and Rock in the Epsom Handicap odds is the only other single-figure fancy, $5.50 pop Probabeel for New Zealand horseman Jamie Richards.
The Kiwi-trained daughter of Savabeel comes off two good runs at the track this prep when running a first-up second in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) before her dominant win in the Group 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m).
A proven Group 1 winner, four-year-old Probabeel drops from 57kg last start to 52.5kg and even with her wide alley to overcome, looks a big chance with Kerrin McEvoy aboard once again.
Of the longer-priced chances after the upset the other best in Epsom betting include Waller’s widely-drawn duo Funstar ($10), who won the Flight Stakes on this day last year, and Imaging ($12) coming off a close third in the all-Waller George Main trifecta.
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