Count’s Missile Mission Shapes As Everest Audition

Luke Price hasn’t wavered in his belief that Count De Rupee is worthy of a shot at the TAB Everest and hopes his stable star can put on a show at Randwick on Saturday.

Trainer Luke Price

With a caveat that he’d like to see a track rated soft 6 or better come jump time for the Group 2 $250,000 Expedo Missile Stakes (1200m), Price says the five-year-old is bursting to produce a big first-up performance.

“It’s a good starting point and he’s well weighted,’’ Price said.

“It’s a very similar prep to last spring, he had 3-1/2 weeks off and only had one trial going into his first-up run.

“Even though he has good soft credentials I’d prefer to go around on a firmer surface in a race like that so you can see his turn of foot.

“If he puts his hand up and he’s good enough to go to the Everest that’s where we’re going that’s for sure.

“If I was to get an Everest slot I’d have to get it early to get the timing right and plan out a program to keep that sprint in his legs.”

While Count De Rupee won the Group 2 Victory Stakes in Brisbane in April, last spring he was runner-up in the Golden Eagle at 1500m before taking out the $1m The Gong over a mile.

Five of the 12 slots have been confirmed for the $15m TAB Everest (1200m) on October 15, plus 2020 champion Classique Legend’s owner Bon Ho holds a slot, so there are still plenty of slot holders left to impress.

Price, who co-trains with his father Robert, said if Count De Rupee doesn’t make the Everest field there is still the Group 3 Sydney Stakes, now worth $2 million, on Everest Day as a back up option plus the now $3 million Nature Strip Stakes (1300m) two weeks later.

“He could run a strong mile but his turn of foot is too good at the moment to let that go to waste,’’ he said.

As for the Missile, Price said he’s rapt with the gelding’s preparation into the race, including his trial placing to Forbidden Love, and likens it to when he resumed last spring with a dominant win over 1200m, albeit in benchmark grade, at Kembla Grange.

He was second favourite at $5 with TAB on Thursday behind Forbidden Love ($3.10) and $34 in Everest all-in betting.

“They can spruik Forbidden Love all they want I thought we were just as good on her inside, the jockey was under strict instructions not to let the handbrake off,’’ he said.

“I was pretty happy with what I saw and even more happy the week after the way he came through and brought him on.

“If we got to a soft 6 or soft 5 range I would be extremely confident.”

What tells Price that Count De Rupee is in such great shape for a race that could define where he heads through the spring?

Simple, while his jockey days are well behind him he relishes being able to get on the horse’s back every day and rarely lets regular jockey Brock Ryan near him at trackwork.

“He gives you so much confidence when you’re on his back and a feel not many other horses give you,’’ he said.

“I ride him every day, the same time every day. Ten to four in the morning. He knows if he’s not getting work then he’s getting a course proper gallop at 6.30 or there’s something going on.”

Stablemate Our Bambino is a sneaky chance in the RHMC Sydney Handicap (2400m) – if Randwick’s track rating can hold up.

The honest six-year-old was an easy winner over 2000m on his home track in mid-June and went down narrowly on unsuitable heavy ground under 60.5kg there last weekend.

“He’s well placed, we’ve been screaming to get out to this trip all prep but he needs a firmer surface,’’ he said.

“He drops in weight and if we miss the rain I think he’s a good each-way chance.”

– Racing NSW

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