Everest markets have been turned on their head after Nature Strip was beaten out of a place in his final lead up run as Libertini seemingly raced her way into the $15 million sprint.
Trained by Anthony Cummings, Libertini was having her first start since an autumn cut short by niggling injury with connections giving her the time she needed to recover.
The four-year-old repaid their faith with a brilliant return to win Saturday’s Premiere Stakes (1200m) at Randwick, beating a brave Classique Legend by two lengths with Deprive the same margin away third.
Cummings had harboured Everest ambitions for Libertini 12 months ago but she didn’t get to the race.
He is hoping for a different result this time around with two slot holders – Chris Waller Racing and James Harron – still to fill their vacancies.
“I thought she was capable of winning The Everest last year and hopefully we get to prove the point this year,” Cummings said.
“She just has to go home eat up and do well and back it up in two weeks time.”
Cummings said he knew Libertini was going well but he was far from bullish due to the calibre of her rivals.
“It was hard to be confident as Classique Legend was obviously going well and you have to show them due respect,” Cummings said.
“But I knew where she was and it is hard to see them work that well and not win.”
Classique Legend lost no admirers after being trapped wide and chiming in halfway up the straight, only to be a sitting duck for Libertini.
Waller was forgiving of Nature Strip who had a difficult build up after a trial mishap and went too fast in the early part of Saturday’s race.
“We’ve got two weeks to turn him around,” Waller said.
“It won’t be easy. He’s had a tough run to today. The last few weeks have been hell, particularly the last two, but I can’t fault the horse.”
The TAB eased Nature Strip from $3.50 Everest favouritism to $8 with Classique Legend and Gytrash now equal top picks at $5.
Libertini has firmed from $34 into $6 despite not being confirmed for a slot.