Missile Stakes the launching pad to Everest summit
IT'S shaping as the most crucial Missile Stakes in history - with a handful of Saturday's runners chasing down two remaining spots in The Everest.
The likes of Golden Slipper fairytale horse She Will Reign, Randwick Guineas champion Kementari and Magic Millions Guineas winner Pierata are set to clash over the 1200m Everest course at Royal Randwick on Saturday with a lot more than $200,000 prizemoney on the line.
With 10 of the 12 places in the $13 million sprint race on October 13 already locked in, the pressure is ramped up for Saturday.
Trainer Gary Portelli knows She Will Reign will have to perform at her best in the Missile Stakes to earn her place in The Everest.
"A few of the horses are on show for The Everest and I hope we win on the weekend so one of the remaining slot holders asks us to race for them," Portelli said.
"Kementari and Pierata are desperate to get a slot."
Having just returned from an overseas holiday, Portelli this morning gets his first chance for a number of weeks to watch She Will Reign's trackwork up close and measure her progress.
"I think she's come back as good as where you'd want to see her," Portelli said. "This weekend is going to be a good test.
"I just feel that she might be looking for 1400m this campaign so we'll just have to see what happens on Saturday."
The Australian Turf Club and GPI Racing control the final two Everest slots after James Harron snapped up Vega Magic on Sunday following his dominant win in Saturday's Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield.
Victorian sprinter Nature Strip's big win in the Lightning Stakes in Adelaide at the weekend only upped the pressure on the remaining hopefuls to secure a start.
She Will Reign finished ahead of Takedown and Kementari in Winx's recent trial but Portelli is under no illusions as to the task in front of her on Saturday, lining up against speedsters such as Pierata and Music Magnate, who will be having his first run since the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai in March.
She Will Reign has only had four runs since last year's Everest, where she finished 11th of 12 runners.
"I was mindful that most Slipper horses disappear into the wilderness after their three-year-old season and I didn't want her to be one of those statistics," Portelli said.
"You look at horses like Redzel and Black Caviar, who didn't do a lot of racing at two and three. They were given the opportunity to peak at four, so I'm hoping that strategy pays off."
She Will Reign has put on 50kg since her 2017 Slipper triumph and the four-year-old is a different horse to the 1000m speed type, Portelli said.
"She's changed shape as she's grown up," he said. "She's much longer at the barrel.
"She used to gallop on fear before and wanted to get it over and done with. I gave her a pretty easy three-year-old season so she would be strong enough to handle a really good four-year-old campaign.
"The preparation was a dog's breakfast in the end.
"We got the money early in the ($245,000 Inglis Sprint at Warwick Farm on February 10) but had bad luck in the others."