Star sprinters Sunlight and Santa Ana Lane have reaffirmed their credentials for the $14 million Everest with a one-two finish in the Gilgai Stakes.
Sunlight maintained an unblemished record over the straight 1200m at Flemington, adding Saturday’s Group Two race to her victories in last season’s Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes and Newmarket Handicap.
In doing so, the four-year-old mare showed she was on target for The Everest (1200m) at Randwick in two weeks, firming from $11 to $9 after her frontrunning victory.
The Gilgai had been billed as somewhat of a match race between the two multiple Group One winners, with Sunlight taking a race fitness edge into race having already run twice this spring.
Five-time Group One winner Santa Ana Lane was making his season return and he came from last to get within a half-length on Sunlight on the line, with Zoutori another head away third.
Santa Ana Lane firmed firmed from $6 to $5 equal favourite for The Everest alongside Pierata.
Tony McEvoy, who trains Sunlight in partnership with his son Calvin, described the mare as “a true star” and said the race panned out perfectly.
“She’s a star mare and she’s going to be a competitor in a couple of weeks,” McEvoy said.
“We just need the weather to be on her side.
“It’s a Good (4) out there today, maybe a little better, and that’s what she loves.
“She was in for the fight today with a big weight on her back. I thought Luke (Currie) was fabulous on her and she was incredible.”
McEvoy factored in three lead-up runs for Sunlight into 2019 The Everest and believes Saturday’s race will tighten the mare up even more.
“She saddled up beautifully today but I know that there’s another rib or two that I want to see in a fortnight and it will be there,” McEvoy said.
“She will be screwed down now for that big contest. There’s more to come from her.”
Santa Ana Lane’s jockey Mark Zahra is convinced the gelding is on target for The Everest.
“That’s probably as good as we could have hoped for apart from winning,” Zahra said.
“Seeing him in the yard before the race he was really burly and having a little pre-sweat.
“The way the race was run, they were walking up front and I had to come out a bit earlier than I wanted and he probably peaked on his run.
“But going to The Everest, I couldn’t be happier.”