Seaway surges into frame for Epsom Handicap after victory in Winter Challenge

Seaway has emerged as a possible Epsom Handicap contender and Eckstein’s retirement plans could be on hold.

This was champion trainer Chris Waller’s summation of his stable duo after they ran first and third in Sydney’s final stakes race of the season, the Listed $150,000 Winter Challenge (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

This was Seaway’s chance to shine, overcoming a wide barrier to score his first black-type win.

“Seaway goes well fresh so the month between runs wasn’t a concern,’’ Waller said. “We could have run him two weeks ago (Winter Stakes) but it was just a bit too wet.

“The good track helped today and Tommy (Berry) was able to get him across outside the leader early, then they backed off the speed mid-race and he was able to hold on for a good win.”

Seaway, who eased from $6 out to $8.50, held off a determined Goodfella ($13) to win by a neck with Eckstein ($3.20) hitting the line hard for third, a short neck away.

Berry said Seaway was able to over from his wide barrier more easily than expected, settling outside early leader Cradle Mountain.

“To be honest, Chris and I thought there was a good chance we would be three wide,’’ Berry said. “But I didn’t have to use him up too much early to get over and then we got a nice breather for a couple of furlongs mid-race. I think that has won us the race.’’

Seaway gave Waller his fifth Winter Challenge success after previous wins with Coup Ay Tee (2013), He’s Your Man (2014), Marenostro (2016) and Mister Wolf (2018).

He’s Your Man trained on to win the Epsom later that same year and Waller may give Seaway a chance to emulate that feat.

“I think Seaway’s a Group 2 horse, maybe for a race like the Shannon Stakes in the spring,’’ Waller said. “But who knows, he could be a rough Epsom chance, he won’t just be making up the numbers.’’

Waller said Seaway will have the residual fitness of a winter campaign when he races into the spring.

“Those horses coming out of their winter breaks are always a run behind,’’ he said. “That’s where horses like Seaway that have run in races like this have a chance of beating them.’’

Eckstein was only transferred to Waller’s stable to run in the Winter Stakes and Winter Challenge before being retired to stud where she is booked to go to unbeaten American triple crown winner Justify at Coolmore Stud.

But Eckstein is racing so well – she won the Winter Stakes and ran third on Saturday – Waller hopes the top class mare could race this spring carnival.

“Eckstein got home very good,’’ Waller said. “I’m gently twisting their arm (owners Coolmore) suggesting to them she is going well enough to win a decent race in the spring.’’

Seaway’s win gave Waller his 54th stakes success for the season, including a national record 18 Group 1 winners. Godolphin’s James Cummings topped the national trainers’ rankings for most with stakes win with 61 – an all-time record.

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