Big-time owner Gerry Harvey once predicted Royal Descent could be the best horse he’s ever raced.
Now 12 months on — and almost to the day — Harvey’s bold prediction looks like it could come true.
“(Trainer) Chris Waller and I have talked about it the past year, and we both thought this year she could stamp her class,’’ Harvey told The Daily Telegraph.
“She was second to Streama (in the George Main), second to Sacred Falls in the Doncaster, and if she won both of those races, that would make her look a lot better.
“The Cox Plate is where we’re hoping to end up. She ran well in the Caulfield Cup last year, so that’s not out of the question either.
“I ran second in the Cox Plate with Lotteria the year Makybe Diva won, and I sold Savabeel before he won the race.
“The Cox Plate would be good.’’
Certainly trainer Chris Waller couldn’t be happier with Harvey’s top-class five-year-old mare ahead of her return in Saturday’s Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400m) at Randwick.
The normally conservative Waller has found it difficult to hide his excitement about what could seriously be Royal Descent’s breakout spring.
“We purposely only gave her three runs in the autumn with this spring in mind,’’ Waller said.
“And when you almost pull off a win in the Doncaster in one of those three (autumn) runs, it gives you reason to come back in the spring feeling a big more bullish than you’d normally be.
“I am feeling bullish about her (this preparation).
“She’s already won an ATC Oaks, she’s a blue-blood, so there’s not much more to do except aim high, and that’s what we’re doing.’’
Royal Descent is likely to have just the one run in Sydney before heading south for sneak peek around Moonee Valley before the Cox Plate in a race like the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes or Stocks Stakes.
Stablemate Sacred Falls is the Cox Plate favourite, ans also resumes in Saturday’s Warwick Stakes.
While Royal Descent and Sacred Falls both love the wet, they’re far from wound up.
As Waller pointed out, ‘’if they were wound-up to win first-up, they probably wouldn’t win the Cox Plate because it’s too hard to do’’.
Told about Harvey’s comments from a year ago, Waller said: “She was too soft last spring, and she wasn’t mature. She ran second in the George Main Stakes, was unlucky in the Turnbull Stakes, and wasn’t seasoned enough in the Caulfield Cup, despite still running well, but she was still a filly as a four-year-old. This year she is a much stronger horse.’’
Royal Descent looked home in the Doncaster in the winter, only to be nabbed by Sacred Falls in the dying stages. Her only major to date came in the Oaks when she smashed her rivals in the Randwick slush by 10 lengths.
One of five runners for Team Waller in the Warwick Stakes, the trainer was leaning towards Weary and Hawkspur, two of his horses who have already kick-started their latest preparations.
“It will be an interesting race, and we’ll see whether the proven Group 1 performers at weight-for-age stand up, or the fit horses stand up,’’ Waller said.
Kerrin McEvoy steers Royal Descent on Saturday, with Godolphin’s No. 1 hoop enjoying a solid association with Harvey after a Group 1 triumph on Mrs Onassis.
McEvoy is only committed for Saturday’s race, but said “it will be nice to be on Gerry’s radar if he needs a jockey later in the spring’’.
WARWICK STAKES (1400m, Group 2)
Randwick, Race 6 3.45pm
2. SACRED FALLS
Trainer: Chris Waller
Jockey: Tommy Berry
Record: 18: 8-2-1.
Main target: Cox Plate
Made it two Doncasters in a row last preparation but it was his next start when he finished second to Carlton House in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes that showed he could become a weight-for-age force this time in.
Source: Christian Nicolussi