Octogenarian trainer scales The Everest
Leaning against one of the balustrades that encircle the Theatre Of The Horse at Randwick, Les Bridge stood quiet and alone, watching the Everest unfold on the television screen.
Away from the crowd and the noise, the 82-year-old savoured the one minute and eight seconds it took for his brilliant sprinter Classique Legend to soar to a popular victory.
Laidback and laconic, there was little fanfare from Bridge who shrugged his shoulders and said the result of the $15 million race was never in doubt.
“I just had a feeling and it’s hard to explain but I’ve never gone into a big race as confident as I was today,” Bridge said.
“Even when he was that far back I knew he would come.”
Bridge had already declared Classique Legend the best sprinter he had trained and the grey franked that assessment on Saturday, streaking clear to demolish Australia’s premier sprinters.
Bivouac did best of the rest, 2-1/2 lengths away, just ahead of South Australian Gytrash.
Kerrin McEvoy admitted to a few anxious moments when he looked up at the 600m to see he was 12 lengths off the leaders but once he asked Classique Legend for an effort, the response was immediate.
McEvoy has now won three of the four editions of The Everest after claiming the first two on Redzel and says the race is getting better every year.
“Today is a bit tarnished obviously with the lesser crowd but it was a great race and stacked full of talent,” McEvoy said.
“It was a huge buzz to do it with Les. He’s a marvel.
“The first year, my nerves were pretty heightened. Today I was a bit more composed. It is an unbelievable race and it is evolving every year.”
Classique Legend has now won half of his 12 starts and more than $8.6 million prize money.
But his Everest triumph is unlikely to be enough to stop his Hong Kong-based owner Bon Ho from sending him overseas.
Bridge has a soft spot for the grey but says even if Classique Legend sticks around, the classy but lesser-performed Hot Danish will always rank as his favourite horse.
“The horse I got the most pleasure out of in my life was Hot Danish because at the time my wife (Peggy) was dying with cancer and every time that horse won it would give her a lift,” Bridge said.
“So there will never be a horse that replaces Hot Danish.”
Classique Legend is a favourite with Carmel Size, who picked him as a yearling for Bon Ho, cares for him and loves him like a pet.
“Carmel nearly lives with him. If she was married she would be divorced,” Bridge said.
Nature Strip was unable to lead and never looked a threat to finish seventh.
Trainer Chris Waller said he pulled up well but was brought undone by the tactics aboard Eduardo, who set a hot tempo.
“He’s pulled up OK. We will take him home and get him scoped. I think he’s racing at 90 per cent,” Waller said.
“The way the race was run today I don’t think he was given a chance.”