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The Everest picture will become clearer after a number of key runners clash in The Shorts

The countdown to The Everest will begin in earnest when several leading contenders kick off their respective campaigns in the Group 2 The Shorts at Randwick.

While trainer Les Bridge has delayed the planned return of Classique Legend to work on his fitness levels, Gytrash, Eduardo, Lost And Running and Queensland sprinter Rothfire are all on schedule to run.

Eduardo is the only member of the quartet not yet guaranteed an Everest berth after Rothfire was confirmed for the slot held by James Kennedy on Saturday.

But trainer Joe Pride does not expect that will be the case for long, predicting his speedster to stake an undeniable claim for a slot.

“First-up last prep he was amazing. He had Nature Strip go past him and he kicked back and beat him and ran a track record,” Pride said.

“You can expect him to at least be at that level.

“He’s going to peak Everest day, but he won’t be too far away in The Shorts.”

The two horses who have already made spring appearances head early The Everest markets.

Nature Strip is a $4.50 TAB fixed odds favourite after resuming with a typically dominant frontrunning display in the Concorde Stakes, while Masked Crusader is at $5 following a barnstorming last-to-first win in The Heath at Caulfield.

Pride watched both performances closely and believes bookmakers have got it wrong.

“I thought Masked Crusader was better than him,” Pride said.

“When you look at what he did in the autumn, he’s the one with the most improvement in him out of him and Nature Strip.”

The Shorts is one of five feature races at Randwick on Saturday with the Group 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) heading the card.

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