Leading Sydney trainer Chris Waller has given himself the best possible opportunity to win the Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) for the first time by including sixteen talented gallopers in the nominations for the race that were released today.
A total of 105 horses have been entered for the feature race of the 2013 Sydney Spring Racing Carnival with Waller and rival trainer Gai Waterhouse dominating the nominations.
Waller’s sixteen runners are headlined by veteran gelding Metal Bender who returned to the races for the first time since his victory in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) in April last year with an impressive sixth place finish in the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Warwick Farm on Saturday.
Metal Bender has never previously competed in the Epsom Handicap but has fared well in his two previous starts over a mile, when recording a strong victory in the 2009 Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m) and finishing second behind Theseo in the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1600m).
Waller also has Group 1 winners Red Tracer, Royal Descent, Sacred Falls and Shoot Out in the Epsom Handicap nominations and has kept his options open with a number of his talented four-year-olds including Catkins and Boban.
European import Carlton House, who has impressed with two recent barrier trial performances, is the standout of the eleven horses included in the nominations by Gai Waterhouse.
The classy entire, owned by Her Majesty The Queen, finished thirteenth in his Australian racing debut in the Group 2 Ajax Stakes (1500m) in March but has form in Europe around some of the highest rated horses in the world like So You Think and Excelebration.
The Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) was expected to be the major 2013 Spring Racing Carnival target for the son of Street Cry but it appears the Epsom Handicap is an option for the five-year-old in the lead-up to the race.
Waterhouse has dominated the Epsom Handicap in recent years, winning six of the past ten editions of the event, and her other entrants for this year’s edition of the race are highlighted by 2012 Metropolitan Handicap winner Glencadam Gold and More Than Ready entire Ashokan.
The new training partnership of Bart and James Cummings also has a couple of interesting nominations with classy mare Norzita included amongst the entries.
Norzita was most impressive first-up in the Group 3 Show County Quality (1200m) at Warwick Farm on Saturday, running on well in the final stages to finish third, and is a chance to tackle the Epsom Handicap on the way to the Cox Plate.
The daughter of Thorn Park finished third in the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) earlier this year – her only previous tilt in an open handicap event – and she recorded her maiden Group 1 victory over a mile in the Flight Stakes (1600m) last year.
Exciting mare Commanding Jewel, Group 1 winner Sincero and speedster Rain Affair were also included in the Epsom Handicap nominations.