Fourteen of the country’s leading thoroughbred horses will battle it out for a $1 million prize pot at the Epsom Handicap on Saturday. Sydney’s champion trainer Chris Waller is responsible for five of them, but none of his charges has been made the favourite. That honour goes to Pat Webster’s Happy Clapper, who carries the top weight after impressing all season. There is plenty of danger across the field and it should prove a thrilling race. Here we run through the leading contenders, the odds on them winning and their chances of seizing glory in this 1600m, Group 1 contest:
The seven-year-old bay gelding carries top weight in this handicap and is the $3.20 favourite after displaying impressive consistency throughout his career. However, he has never won a Group 1 race and that is a little worrying. You could argue that he is the best horse never to win at Group 1 level: he has placed many times and finished second to champion mare Winx on his last outing. He was fourth in this race last year and over his career, he has racked up $2.4 million in prize money and earned a Cox Plate nomination. He has earned his 57kg weight, but that is a tough burden to carry and at just $4.50 it seems a risky bet. However, he has drawn the ideal stall, number four, the form lines point to him winning and this is the perfect opportunity for him to break his duck, so he will see plenty of action.
Chances are that Chris Waller will win his fourth Epsom Handicap in five years. He won it with Boban in 2013, He’s Your Man in 2014 and Winx in 2015. Waller has since gone on to enjoy phenomenal success with Winx, the Cox Plate winner for the last two years, but he is by no means a one-trick pony and Egg Tart looks a real star of the future. Of Waller’s six runners in the Epsom, Egg Tart has the shortest odds ($5.50) and that is understandable. She won the Group 1 Queensland Oaks during the Queensland Winter Carnival and also won the Schweppes Oaks in Adelaide. Last time out she finished second to Deploy in the Theo Marks, when Deploy broke the track record. She will be carrying a lighter weight than Happy Clapper, 51kg, and looks a good each-way bet at that price. One worry is an eye infection she has suffered, but Waller expects her to shake that off and she could become just the third mare in history to win this race.
Waller’s Other Five
Comin’ Through and Tom Melbourne are third and fourth favourites at $8 and $9 respectively, followed by Foxplay at $10 and McCreery at $16. It is an extremely strong hand from Waller, who is taking few chances in his bid to win the Epsom once again and grab the bulk of that $1 million prize pot. However, if Egg Tart succumbs to the eye infection, Waller could be in trouble. Comin’ Through, Tom Melbourne and Foxplay drew gates 12, 13 and 14 respectively, so they will have to battle back from the outside, and his longest priced-runner, McCreery, was the one to fare better and land gate seven. Foxplay carries the second heaviest weight in the race and could struggle with the poor draw, but she has won the Group 1 Coolmore Legacy and will be dangerous. Comin’ Through also looks an interesting option at $8. The four-year-old has won three of eight career starts, most notably the Group 3 Carbine Club Stakes over 1,600m, and last time out he claimed the $100,000 Broccolini Handicap. This is a huge step up in class, but Waller feels he is ready and he will be well in the mix.
The $17 Zambagh has placed at Group 1 level and could make an interesting long-shot, but would need to improve upon her best performance to win this. He’s Our Rokkii is a Group 1 winner and looks an even better option at $17. He has plenty of talent but has disappointed over his last seven runs. Now would be the time to make a stunning return to form. Another really interesting runner is I Am a Star, who won the Group 1 Myer Classic and had a strong autumn campaign. Shane Nichols’ bay mare has drawn the second gate and carries a low weight, so looks a great long-shot at $26. Egg Tart, Happy Clapper, I Am a Star and He’s Our Rokki look like they could fight for the win, with Egg Tart the best tip to win it if she starts.