Australia: Everest hero Classique Legend bound for HK as Verry Elleegant claims Caulfield Cup

By Nicholas Godfrey

Classique Legend stormed home to win Australia’s richest race, the Everest at Randwick in Sydney, while Verry Elleegant held off Anthony Van Dyck in the Caulfield Cup in Melbourne. Here’s all the stuff you might like to know …

What’s going on?

Everest: Hong Kong and Royal Ascot beckon for Classique Legend

Speaking to AAP Racing, Classique Legend’s Hong Kong-based owner Bon Ho said the horse will now be shipped to the Far East to continue his career.

“I think Classique Legend is one of the top two or three sprinters in the world and he will have a better opportunity to race globally if he is based in Hong Kong,” said the owner. “We can race him in Dubai, Tokyo and even Royal Ascot but I hope he can be back in Sydney next year for the Everest again.

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“I’ve got a slot in the Everest for three years and Classique Legend is likely to return next year – unless I have a better sprinter at home.”

According to AAP, Classique Legend is set to enter quarantine on Monday before travelling to Hong Kong for the International Sprint in December.

Classique Legend (Kerrin McEvoy) wins the Everest at Randwick. Photo: Australian Turf Club

Everest: Les Bridge’s second chance

Octogenarian trainer Les Bridge was handed a second chance to train the Everest winner after quarantine restrictions scuppered plans to ship the grey gelding to Hong Kong earlier this year.

Racing and bloodstock manager Carmel Size explained: “He was on the flight twice, it got shot down upon me and he came back to me. I just cannot tell you how much this horse means to me.”

Bridge confirmed that five-year-old’s future still lies in the Far East, however. “Yes, he will still go to Hong Kong – we will see what happens,” said Bridge. “We kidnapped him last time!”

Everest: triumph for 82-year-old trainer

In a career spanning 50 years, Everest-winning trainer Les Bridge has also won a Golden Slipper (1983 with Sir Dapper) and a Melbourne Cup (1987 with Kensei).

Before Classique Legend stormed home to win by 2½ lengths from Godolphin’s Bivouac, the octogenarian had not saddled a Group winner for five years – and he hasn’t had a G1 winner since 2010. 

And he still hasn’t, because although the Everest is the world’s richest turf race with A$15m (£8.23m) prize-money, it remains an anomaly in that it carries no official Group-race status.

“It was a huge buzz to do it with Les – he’s a marvel,” said winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy.

“Les has pulled a masterstroke off,” he added. “He has been great. He doesn’t say too much, he gave me no instructions. I said what I planned to do, which is fantastic from a jockeys’ point of view if you’ve got backing from the trainer and he has trained some champions. This horse is at the top of his list.”

Horse Racing Kerrin McEvoy Les Bridge Classique Legend Everest Randwick
Kerrin McEvoy and trainer Les Bridge after Classique Legend won the Everest at Randwick. Photo: Bradley Photos

Everest: hate to say I told you so!

Classique Legend is the first winning favourite in four runnings of the world’s richest turf race – and nobody could say they weren’t warned. “I’ve been telling you for three months,” grinned trainer Les Bridge. “How much start do you want?”

Everest: winner still not the trainer’s favourite

As much as Les Bridge loves Classique Legend, the grey is never likely to supplant another horse in his affections, as he explained.

“The horse I got the most pleasure out of in my life was Hot Danish because at the time my wife (Peggy) was dying with cancer and every time that horse won it would give her a lift,” he said. “So there will never be a horse that replaces Hot Danish.”

Everest: three out of four for McEvoy

After winning the first two Everests on Redzel, Kerrin McEvoy has now won three of the four editions of the world’s richest turf race.

“Every big win is special,” said the jockey. “I was lucky enough to team up with Redzel soon after he got racing with the Snowdens. This is a horse that Carmel (Size) threw me on and Les (Bridge) threw me on really early in his career and he showed instant brilliance. I backed him to the hilt from then on to win a good race. Last year was a tough call, I had to stick solid with Redzel and the Snowdens and this horse was a little bit unlucky.”

Caulfield Cup: first for Winx trainer Waller

In a stirring finish, Winx’s trainer Chris Waller landed his first Caulfield Cup as top-class racemare Verry Elleegant held off a fierce final-furlong challenge from last year’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck to win by a head.

With 55kg (8st9lb), New Zealand-bred Verry Ellegant is the second-highest weight carrier of her sex to win the A$5m (£2.75m) Caulfield Cup, sponsored this year by Stella Artois.

“I thought she was beaten but she dug so deep,” said Waller. “Obviously weight is the biggest concern. She had so much weight to carry today. It was never going to be easy and she just scraped in.”

Caulfield Cup: see you at the Melbourne Cup

Verry Elleegant will run next in the Lexus Melbourne Cup on November 3 – when she is likely to face a rematch with Anthony Van Dyck.

Ladbrokes cut both principals to 8-1 (from 12) for the Flemington two-miler, while Melbourne regular Prince Of Arran is now 12-1 (from 20) after a fine fourth-placed effort.

Horse Racing Verry Elleegant Caulfield Cup
Verry Elleegant (Mark Zahra) wins the Caulfield Cup with Anthony Van Dyck (near side) a head second. Photo: Pat Scala

Asked about the Melbourne Cup, Chris Waller said: “Yeah for sure. When she first came to me she was touted as a genuine Caulfield-Melbourne Cup horse. I swayed them away from it last year but she’s back this year and justifying that decision. “I didn’t think she was strong enough last year.”

Anthony Van Dyck’s trainer Aidan O’Brien also trains Melbourne Cup favourite Tiger Moth but Irish Derby winner Santiago has reportedly been ruled out.

Melbourne Cup betting (Ladbrokes): 5 Tiger Moth, 7 Russian Camelot, 8 Anthony Van Dyck (from 14), Surprise Baby, Verry Elleegant (from 14), 12 Finche, Prince Of Arran (from 20), 16 Ashrun, Sir Dragonet, 20 bar.

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Caulfield Cup: ‘I thought I had the race at my mercy,” says beaten Bowman

Last year’s Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck emerges from his Caulfield Cup defeat with enormous credit after so nearly overcoming a wide draw in gate 21.

The Irish representative was forced to race towards the rear before challenging widest of all into the straight; the son of Galileo was also conceding roughly 8lb to the winner, who beat him by only a head.

Jockey Hugh Bowman admitted he thought he was going to win as Anthony Van Dyck closed in on Verry Elleegant. “I thought I had the race at my mercy at the 300 (metres) but all credit to the winner.” he said.

Caulfield Cup: four-timer for supersub Zahra

One man’s meat is another man’s poison, so it seems. Mark Zahra got the ride on Verry Elleegant only because regular jockey James McDonald stayed in Sydney to partner the winner’s Chris Waller-trained stablemate Nature Strip in the Everest.

After chasing a frantic early pace, Nature Strip was unplaced behind Classique Legend, while Zahra rode four winners altogether at Caulfield, also scoring on Power Scheme, Albarado and California Zimbol.

“Going into the Caulfield Cup I thought I might have used all my luck up,” he said. “It’s a massive thrill.”

Horse Racing Verry Elleegant Caulfield Cup
Verry Elleegant (Mark Zahra) after winning the Caulfield Cup. Photo: Chris Waller Racing

Shall we talk about it?

EVEREST

Les Bridge (Classique Legend’s trainer): “I’ve been telling you for three months, how much start do you want? This horse has got a girth on him that deep and he’s just got a big V8 motor. It’s unbelievable. I just had a feeling and it’s hard to explain but I’ve never gone into a big race as confident as I was today. Even when he was that far back I knew he would come.”

Carmel Size (Classique Legend’s racing and bloodstock manager):
“I love him so much, I’ve been obsessed with him since I laid eyes on him. That is a great horse; we have seen something special today. I’m so proud of the horse. To think I bought him as a yearling and I’ve able to look after him, it’s just been the world to me. I might have to retire now.”

Kerrin McEvoy (Classique Legend’s jockey): “It was a funny one because I needed to come back behind Trekking to get a slot and then they went quicker. I just had to ride my race. I looked up at the 600m and they were well in front, they were off. I thought far out, if Nature Strip and his companions are back to their best they are going to take a bit of running down.
“Full credit to my horse with that cover and that soft time of it early, he was really able to power when I asked him. Soon after straightening I was confident I was going to pick them up.”

Glen Boss (Bivouac’s jockey): “He went outstanding, my horse. Full credit to the winner. I followed him. He put three lengths on me when I was quickening. We couldn’t have beaten the winner today.”

Chris Waller (Nature Strip’s trainer): He’s pulled up OK. We will take him home and get him scoped. I think he’s racing at 90 per cent. The way the race was run today I don’t think he was given a chance.”

James McDonald (Nature Strip’s jockey): “We went good. Crazy tactics by the leader.”

CAULFIELD CUP

Chris Waller (Verry Elleegant’s trainer): “You think of all the negatives when you’ve got good horses around you and and I thought that weight, 55kg (8st9lb), might not sound a lot to those at home, but I can assure you, Caulfield Cup history would suggest mares with 55kg, they don’t win very often. That just tells you how good she is.
“Every horse is different and tells a different tale, but she’s as tough as anything for three seasons straight now. She was a very good three-year-old, she was a very good four-year-old and she’s come back just as well at five.
“I knew we had to be at our very best to pull out a bit extra in last last 100 metres. I thought he had us. I’ve got huge respect for Aidan O’Brien and his team and obviously for Hugh Bowman, but to get one up on them today was pretty special.”

Mark Zahra (Verry Elleegant’s jockey): “All I was thinking across the line was, I took my rein in, this is going to look shithouse. But, nah, it’s a great feeling. Gee she’s tough when the other horse joined her. To win a Caulfield Cup, unfortunately no crowd, but to win a Cup is amazing.
“I don’t know if it was my soft hands that did the job. When she gets to 2,400 metres the main thing is to get her in a rhythm. I wasn’t in a bad spot but the stablemate was putting some pressure on me to go to the fence, which she didn’t like, but all I wanted to do was get to the outside and I tried to be a bit cheeky from (barrier) ten trying getting out there but I didn’t get there so I had wait.
“I had to give her a razzle up on the turn but, like I say, she was very tough.”

Hugh Bowman (Anthony Van Dyck’s jockey): “Great run, superb effort. We had a beautiful run in transit and I got going when it suited me. I thought I had the race at my mercy at the 300 (metres) but all credit to the winner. She’s so tough.”

Jamie Kah (Prince Of Arran’s jockey): “Absolutely super. I had to cop and go back on him, but god he was a big run from the rear of the field.”

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