The Ben, Will & JD Hayes-trained Cox...
In a thrilling Epsom Handicap 2022 result at Royal Randwick the $1.5 million feature was won in a dead heat by the Annabel Neasham-trained Top Ranked and Ellsberg for Gerald Ryan & Sterling Alexiou.
The judge took the longest time to put up the numbers, but the official call saw the two gallopers share top prize in this year’s Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) after an exciting battle to the line.
Rounding out the Epsom Handicap trifecta after running between the dual winners was the Chris Waller-trained Hinged.
Sterling Alexiou had to share his first Group 1 victory not only with his training partner Ryan, but also with Neasham with nothing between their horses on the line.
“I walked onto the track and I just wanted to see how the horse has pulled up. I actually didn’t think we’d got it,” the now six-time Group 1 winning Neasham said after the race.
“We always thought he was going to be a really good horse here in Australia. It is great to win it for Australian Bloodstock. To win the Epsom for them is just so special.”
Five-year-old entire Ellsberg presented fit third-up with jockey Brenton Avdulla taking the galloper up into a forward position behind the leader Cross Talk after settling.
Top Ranked, last start winner of the Group 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m), was also on speed with the Irish-bred grey carrying the 56.5kg top weight around in fourth throughout with Hugh Bowman aboard.
A host of hopefuls came with their runs on the home straight including the favourite Icebath and Top Ranked who was closing in fast along with Hinged and Ellsberg.
Top Ranked and Ellsberg fought it out over the final furlong going stride for stride ahead of Hinged before the dead heat was declared.
“Half way up I thought Hughie was home and the closer we got to the line I knew I was coming strong and I thought on the post I got him,” Ellsberg’s jockey Avdulla said.
“But racing is a funny thing. When I came back (to scale) I would’ve been shattered if my number didn’t come up and the longer we were here (waiting for a result) we both said to each other ‘I just hope for a dead heat’.
“It’s a Group 1 race, I only picked the ride up on Wednesday. He wasn’t going to run so we got him in last minute. I didn’t think he was well in at the weight but he was still able to share in a Group 1, so it’s amazing.”
It was only the third time in Epsom Handicap history that the race resulted in a dead heat following on from Atalanta and Kingfisher in 1873, and Boaster and Metellus back in 1925.
For Ryan and Alexiou the Epsom Handicap result was made even more special with the horse being by their former galloper Spill The Beans.
“It’s our first Group 1 together,” Ryan said.
“We had Ellsberg’s father, we bought him (Spill The Beans) as a yearling, we bought him (Ellsberg) as a yearling, we paid a lot of money for him, there are good blokes in the horse with us, a great syndicate.
“It’s good when you buy the horse as a yearling and bring him along. We’ve been desperate to win a Group 1 with him but I had basically given up hope.
“We’d been here three times at the mile and we had been found wanting but he stuck his head out today. He’s so honest. I think it’s just three times that he has been out of the first four. I wish I had more of them.”
Neasham meanwhile was quick to confirm plans to target the Group 1 $5 million Ladbrokes Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 23 with Top Ranked.
“Unbelievable horse,” she said of the Dark Angel seven-year-old.
“Second up just two weeks from a run off a long layoff. The question is whether they give him a spot in the Cox Plate, but they have to after that. He’s a Group 1 horse.”
She had the favourite in last year’s race with Zaaki before his scratching the morning of due to an elevated temperature.
Zaaki is at $7 for the stable in all-in 2022 Cox Plate betting at Ladbrokes.com.au, while Top Ranked is now into $18 for the weight-for-age classic.
Click here for the latest Cox Plate markets.
2022 Epsom Handicap Results & Finishing Order
|1||3||ELLSBERG||Gerald Ryan & Sterling Alexiou||Brenton Avdulla||2||56kg||$16|
|1||1||TOP RANKED (IRE)||Annabel Neasham||Hugh Bowman||3||56.5kg||$4.60|
|3||8||HINGED||Chris Waller||Kerrin McEvoy||0.34L||8||51.5kg||$4|
|4||5||ICEBATH (NZ)||Brad Widdup||James McDonald||5.3L||6||54.5kg||$3.60F|
|5||4||NIMALEE||Matthew Smith||Regan Bayliss||6.33L||9||55.5kg||$14|
|6||6||FANGIRL||Chris Waller||Tommy Berry||7.18L||4||54kg||$13|
|7||7||KIKU||Chris Waller||Jason Collett||9.53L||10||54kg||$21|
|8||9||CROSS TALK (NZ)||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Ms Rachel King||9.83L||5||51kg||$8|
|9||12||WAR ETERNAL (NZ)||Bjorn Baker||Jay Ford||10.46L||1||51kg||$31|
|10||11||PIPPALI||Jason Coyle||Ms Kathy O’Hara||14.36L||7||51kg||$101|
|2||CONVERGE||Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott||Tim Clark||0|
|10||CHARACTER||James Cummings||Reece Jones (a)||0|
Table Credit: Racing Australia.
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