The changing face of racing’s spring carnival could signal a shift in the role of the Epsom Handicap, according to premier trainer Chris Waller.
Saturday’s Randwick meeting has long been the showpiece program of Sydney’s springtime action with the Group One Epsom at its centrepiece.
But the introduction of new races in Sydney and Melbourne and the continued growth of the Everest carnival has given Waller pause for thought.
“Traditionally it used to be the grand final from a trainer’s perspective before we started branching off to Melbourne,” Waller said.
“Things are a little bit different this year and I guess we’ll just find our way through the spring.
‘There will be new challenges and (we will) be managing everything to the best of our ability and making the most of the great prize money on offer.”
Waller does not believe the status of the Epsom Handicap (1600m) will be diminished but rather sees it increasingly becoming a critical fork in the road.
The champion trainer has won the Epsom three times, most recently with Winx who claimed it on the way to the first of her record four Cox Plate victories.
He saddles up six runners in Saturday’s edition and expects the performances of his sextet to provide important insights into their respective spring paths.
“Obviously it’s a race that we like to target, this and the Doncaster have been great races to the stable and it’s a stepping stone early in the spring for a lot of horses,” Waller said.
“Some will come back in distance, some will stick to easier races, some will go up in distance and hopefully we can even celebrate a win in the race.”
The Waller-trained Kolding has been backed into outright $5 favouritism and markets regard the four-year-old as the clear top pick for the stable, ahead of Star Of The Seas at $19.
The trainer reckons punters have got it pretty right.
A luckless first-up fifth in the Tramway Stakes, Kolding atoned with a resolute win in the Bill Ritchie Handicap and has pleased the stable since.
“Kolding I guess would be our pick, along with Star Of The Seas and the market would back this up,” Waller said.
“Kolding has done a great job through the autumn and come back very well in the spring.
“I’ve been very happy with his work over the past fortnight since his good last start win.”
Blinkers go back on Star Of The Seas who has won his only start at the track and distance and has been set for the race.
The best of Waller’s outsiders could be $51 shot Kaonic who was gelded after his autumn preparation and put the finishing touches to his Epsom campaign with an eye-catching fourth to Rock in the Cameron Handicap at Newcastle.
“He gets his chance here and will be very strong at the end,” Waller said.