RACING: Vega Magic can overcome a wide draw and hold off Chautauqua and English in a thrilling finish to the inaugural $10 million The TAB Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
This is the prediction of form guru Gary Crispe who believes there will be less than two lengths separating the first eight over the line in the big race.
Crispe said the world's richest turf race had attracted the best sprinters in training and it would take a Timeform rating of between 125-127 to win.
He believes it will be Vega Magic, one of three runners for Lindsay Park trainers David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig.
Vega Magic, a former Perth galloper, has been unbeaten since joining the Hayes-Dabernig stable and Crispe said the sprinter "put the writing on the wall" when he won the Group 1 Memsie Stakes last start, returning a Timeform rating of 126.
"At his first run for the Lindsay Park, Vega Magic won the Group 1 Goodwood returning a Timeform rating of 118, but this preparation he has seems to have gone to a new level," Crispe said.
"His Memsie Stakes effort when he rated 126 was a serious shot fired this early in the season; the mark having only been matched or bettered by Weekend Hussler (126) and So You Think (128) in the recent history of that race.
"Further highlighting the significance of the mark - there are only two horses currently in training with a higher rating to their name - Winx (134) and Chautauqua (127)."
Vega Magic hasn't raced for more than a month and has to drop back to 1200m for The Everest, but Crispe said this would not trouble the talented chestnut.
"The wide draw may appear a hindrance but I think he can settle just off the speed and surge late," he said.
"The only box Vega Magic has not ticked is the right handed way of going, but if he is able to replicate what he produced in the Memsie he is sure to be the horse to beat."
Chautauqua has been unplaced in two runs this spring with suggestions the champ is struggling to find form - a theory Crispe has dismissed.
Crispe said that Chautauqua's efforts in The Shorts and the Premiere Stakes were very good with his undoing brought about by a "less than ferocious" early tempo in both races.
It will be a different story on Saturday with The Everest likely to be a high-pressure race, run at a fast tempo from the start, giving the backmarkers their opportunity.
Crispe pointed out that Chautauqua had consistently produced his best efforts third-up from a spell.
"Chautauqua's career best performances have come when a fast tempo has been set, that is the first half the race is run faster than the second half," he said.
"His sustained speed allows him to work home over the top of his rivals as while they are slowing down and he appears to be flying late, when in truth he isn't going any faster, just sustaining speed.
"Then there is his third-up. It is quite spectacular. In his last four preparations that have gone three starts or more he has won three times over 1200m.
"The only time he was beaten was his third to Winx in the George Ryder Stakes over 1500m earlier this year before he came back to 1200m to win the T J Smith Stakes.
"Even more significant is the fact that in his three 1200m wins achieved third up, Chautauqua has recorded a peak Timeform rating each time.
"The prospect of some rain will also assist his chances."
Crispe said English showed with narrow loss to In Her Time in the Premiere Stakes last start she was right on track for The Everest.
"English returned a faster last 600m (32.37sec) than Chautauqua and appeared to just peak on her run late, but still managed to record the second fastest last 200m of the race," Crispe said.
"From the wide draw she is expected to be ridden cold, but will appreciate the fast tempo and her career peak was achieved third up last preparation in the TJ Smith Stakes over the Randwick 1200m.
"A return to that level of form sees her as a major player in the big dance."
Crispe felt Clearly Innocent was one of the few horses in the race with scope to give more.
"Clearly Innocent ran to a new career Timeform peak rating of 121 during the Brisbane carnival then resumed in the Premiere Stakes behind In Her Time finishing an eye catching third when he didn't have a lot of room late,'' he said.
"This horse possesses a great record second up and will relish any rain about, his Group 1 Kingsford
Smith Cup win was the first time he had struck a wet track and he clearly excelled, and no one is riding better than Hugh Bowman. From the good draw, Clearly Innocent should get a lovely run and will be one of the strongest late.''
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