Form expert: Santa has Everest in the bag
SANTA Ana Lane can prove he is the best sprinter in the world by eclipsing a crack field for the $14 million The Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
The best 11 sprinters in Australian racing and Irish raider Ten Soveregns are competing for the world's richest race on turf.
The Everest field comprises 10 individual Group 1 winners of 22 major races. The other two starters have won at Group 2 level, and collectively these sprinters have earned more than $42 million prize money.
Rating genius Gary Crispe said Saturday's The Everest is the "by far and away the best sprint field" seen in many years.
"Unlike the first two editions, this year has no passengers,'' Crispe said.
"There is no horse that you could confidently rule a line through.''
Crispe said it would take a world-class sprinter to win the big race and he was convinced that was Santa Ana Lane.
Using his exclusive Timeform ratings - the universally recognised measure of racetrack performance - Crispe said there might only be about two lengths covering first to eighth in The Everest finish but maintained Santa Ana Lane was the best sprinter in the race and the one to beat.
"Santa Ana Lane's effort to win the TJ Smith Stakes (last April) was nothing short of top drawer, he is the best sprinter in the land off that run with a Timeform rating of 130,'' Crispe said.
"He was held back to resume in the Group 2 Gilgai Stakes (1200m) and although Santa Ana Lane had his colours lowered for the second time behind Sunlight, it was a sound return and a perfect platform for The Everest.
"Notably, Sunlight and Redzel are the only two horses to have beaten Santa previously.''
Crispe said also trainer Anthony Freedman's outstanding ability to prepare his horses for big races.
"Since the start of the 2017-18 season, he has saddled up 38 runners in Group 1 company and notched up 10 winners at a 26 per cent strike rate,'' he said.
"He has a fantastic record in the 'Grand Finals' and that is clearly evident when looking at Santa Ana Lane's record. Since 2017, Santa Ana Lane has raced 10 times in Group 1 company (includes last year's Everest) for five wins.
"He has only started favourite once during that period, which came in Hong Kong when clearly unsuited by the moderate tempo.
"Mark Zahra rides Santa Ana Lane and gets the chance to possibly settle closer if they desire (they did settle a length last in the TJ Smith).
"He is the only horse in the field that has put a margin on their rivals and while it is likely to be a very busy finish, with clear air, he should be too good late.''
Crispe conceded the Greg Hickman-trained Pierata was back better than ever but said he would need to be if he was going to beat Santa Ana Lane.
"They have already met twice with Santa coming out on top both times,'' Crispe said. "But Pierata comes into The Everest off a new career peak Timeform rating of 126 winning The Shorts.
"The inside draw allows him to settle in front of Santa, the step up to 1200m is another tick and Tommy Berry is certainly riding with a lot of confidence.''
The Chris Waller-trained Arcadia Queen is the big unknown, according to the ratings expert.
Arcadia Queen is in only her second race preparation, she's won six of her seven starts, and returned in great order by easily taking care of her rivals in the Group 2 Theo Marks Stakes last month.
Crispe said Arcadia Queen didn't beat anything of the class she would face in The Everest but with the mares allowance at weight-for-age bringing her in with 56.5kg, her Timeform rating of 125 ensured she would be competitive.
Irish raider Ten Sovereigns, trained by Aidan O'Brien, is the rank outsider of The Everest but Crispe has him finishing in a top four finish.
"Ten Sovereigns has been given ;ittle respect by the market, however his effort winning the Group 1 July Cup saw him return a Timeform rating of 126 and if he runs up to that figure, he will be very competitive,'' Crispe said.
"I suspect they will roll forward from the wide draw and while he may lack the tactical speed of our sprinters, his jockey Ryan Moore will want to make it a test. He should make his presence felt.''
TIMEFORM FINISHING ORDER
1. SANTA ANA LANE
3. Arcadia Queen
4. Ten Sovereigns
7. In Her Time
8. Yes Yes Yes
10. Classique Legend
12. Nature Strip