The Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star is still in its infant state but after making waves on the international stage in its inaugural year 12 months ago, the scene is set for another classic.
With the prizemoney for the final topped up to $300,000, taking the entire series to $400,000, it has already become the most sought after trotting race in the southern hemisphere.
And one combination that will be vying for a share in the stakes is Elegant Image and Kate Gath.
The pair combined last year to run second in both their heat and final but that was when the horse was nowhere near his best.
Now, he is flying; coming off a win in the Group 1 Knight Pistol a fortnight ago, Gath couldn’t have wished for anything more, except perhaps a better barrier in their elimination heat.
.“What can you do? You’ve just got to go out there and do your best and be optimistic. It’s not going to be easy; we’re going to have our work cut out,” Gath said on RSN’s industry leading program Gait Speed on Tuesday.
“He was trotting terribly in last year’s Great Southern Star so he did quite a job to finish where he did because he just had no rhythm. At the moment I’m really happy with him, if we just get a tiny bit of luck in the heat I’m sure we can make the final.”
Even that might be enough because in a race that’s so very different from every other on the calendar, connections choose their own barrier in order of where they finished in the qualifiers.
So finishing fifth and scraping into the final will almost certainly guarantee a poor barrier.
And in a race with so many top line squaregaiters, that could be a crucial blow heading into the race run just three hours after the first heat.
In saying that, Gath sees no reason Elegant Image won’t have the pick of the barriers despite being a $10 chance in his heat with TAB fixed odds.
“He feels terrific. He had a couple of little issues in between his form of a few months ago which made it difficult but thankfully it appears we’ve been able to resurrect him and everything is on song again now,” She said.
“I was happy with his run in Sydney and although Keystone Del was unlucky in the Knight Pistol, we did all the work in the death so I was really happy with that run too.”
As for preparation in between heat and final, it will be an almost well-worn path for the six-year-old gelding.
“We walked him a little bit in between last year but he always works heats and he seems to go much better in the second heat so it’s sort of what he’s used to even though the gap will be bigger if he does qualify,” Gath said.
Elegant Image is an $18 chance with TAB Fixed Odds to win the second-ever running of the Group 1 Pryde’s EasiFeed Great Southern Star with the final set down for 10pm.
By Blake Redden (Courtesy of Harness Racing Australia)