King Lionheart could easily have been sold 18 months ago. Instead, the in-form gelding will now lead a three-pronged Tulloch Lodge assault in what could be a record-equalling Epsom Handicap success for champion trainer Gai Waterhouse on Saturday.
King Lionheart burst into Epsom contention last Saturday with his Shannon Stakes win, and he’ll be joined by stablemates More Strawberries and Light Brigade as Waterhouse looks to equal her late father Tommy Smith’s record of seven Epsoms.
“I’ve always had an opinion of the horse,” Waterhouse said of King Lionheart.
“We had a chance of selling him about 18 months ago, he had a few little issues, but we didn’t sell him.
“He’s always been black-type class, but he’s just made that quantum leap this preparation.”
A first-up win from five-year-old King Lionheart at Rosehill earlier this month was backed up with another bold performance to outgun stablemate Fast Clip in last Saturday’s Group Two Shannon Stakes (1500m).
Waterhouse said it would be “fabulous” to join her legendary father as a seven-time Epsom winner.
“I’ve got a really good chance of winning it this year, I’ve got a good chance at getting the trifecta in fact,” Waterhouse said.
“I wouldn’t be leaving any of them out.
“There’s not a lot between them. King Lionheart has had more runs and is more seasoned and is right in form, but I can’t fault the other two.”
Waterhouse picked her time to produce More Strawberries first-up this preparation and the four-year-old mare produced the goods in her return performance, taking out the Listed Tibbie Stakes at Newcastle.
She is one of six horses out to break an Epsom hoodoo with La Neige the last mare to win the 1600m feature in 1976.
“She has come back very strong,” Waterhouse said of More Strawberries.
“She’s more like a colt than a filly. There’s no horse in the stable that’s changed more than her.”
The “smokey” in the race, Waterhouse says, is Group One-placed entire Light Brigade.
Light Brigade, third behind Ilovethiscity and Skilled in this year’s Randwick Guineas, caught the eye with a closing second to Raspberries in the Group Three Cameron Handicap at Newcastle last start.
“Light Brigade is the smokey and I’m really happy with him,” Waterhouse said.
“He’s going really well, he’s a lovely colt and he’s right on target for the race.”
Since gaining her trainer’s licence in 1992, Waterhouse has often dominated Epsom Day at Randwick.
Along with her six Epsoms, Waterhouse has also won seven Group One Metropolitan Handicaps, seven Group One Flight Stakes and three Group One Spring Champion Stakes on this day in the past.
With representatives in the Epsom and Metropolitan as well as several support races, the trainer believes she is in a position to steal the limelight once again.
“(Epsom Day) is a great day and it’s a great day for Randwick,” she said.
“Everyone is just so pleased to be back and hopefully we get good weather for the day.
“I think we’ve got great chances in all the races we’ve got runners in.”