Not even two months into the 2012/13 racing season, Chris Waller has already trained 45 winners out of his Rosehill base, and the stable claimed their first Group 1 win amongst that tally when Shoot Out saluted in last Saturday's George Main Stakes (1600m).
Shoot Out was clearly the class runner in the feature event however queries regarding fitness were always going to be raised regarding the six-year-old resuming over a mile. After a successful autumn campaign which yielded a Group 1 win in the Ranvet Stakes (2000m) and a Doncaster Mile second behind More Joyous, credit must be given to both horse and trainer for Shoot Out's first up display.
Shoot Out and stablemate Rangirangdoo were positioned just behind pacesetter Somepin Anypin with the pair generally considered the beneficiaries of a leader bias track on offer at Randwick last weekend. As Somepin Anypin weakened soon upon straightening, Shoot Out and stable stalwart Rangirangdoo engaged in a stride for stride battle before the former eventually edged clear to claim the Group 1 George Main Stakes.
The neck win was assessed at a Timeform figure of 126, equal to Shoot Out's master Timeform rating yielded in Spring 2010 during a high quality Cox Plate renewal taken out by So You Think. In 2012 Shoot Out is embarking on a spring campaign which will potentially see him again contest the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley on October 27.
Next month's Cox Plate like 2010 is shaping as a particularly strong affair with Pierro, Ocean Park, More Joyous and Manighar heading a star studded cast. Shoot Out also sits high in the market, however history suggests the Cox Plate winner rarely comes from the George Main Stakes (1600m). Only Sunline [1999, 2nd] and Might And Power [1998, 7th] have gone on to claim the Cox Plate after contesting the George Main Stakes (1600m) in the past two decades.
While best figures would see Shoot Out highly competitive in the Group 1 WFA feature, a race like the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Derby Day currently holds great appeal for connections. Six Mackinnon Stakes winners during the past two decades have arrived at the Group 1 success via a start in the George Main Stakes with only Grand Armee pulling off the double for Gai Waterhouse in 2004.
Shoot Out's immediate goal however is the Group 1 Epsom Handicap at Randwick on October 6.
The High Chaparral gelding is expected to carry topweight although still appeals as being hard to beat. More often than not in the past two decades, Epsom winners have used the George Main Stakes as a final lead-up run into the prestigious event. Shoot Out though will look to become just the third horse to claim the George Main/Epsom Handicap double during that time. The last horse to achieve that feat was the John O'Shea-trained Racing To Win in 2006. Interestingly, the John O'Shea-trained gelding also ran to 126 when claiming the George Main before posting that figure once again when carrying 57kg in the Epsom Handicap.
Regarding Shoot Out, the main question which needs to be answered is how fit was he first up over a mile. Merely holding that Timeform figure of 126 heading into an Epsom Handicap would likely be enough to see the gelding add another Group 1 to his tally. On the assumption most horses derive improvement from their first up outings, Waller could have Shoot Out primed for a career best campaign.
Special mention must also go to runner up Rangirangdoo who threw everything at his stablemate in the end only just coming up short. Rangirangdoo improved four pounds on his first up mark of 121 achieved when working home solidly under a 61.5kg impost in the Group 3 Tramway Handicap (1400m).
Rounding out the placings was 2011 Epsom Handicap winner Secret Admirer. The Grahame Begg-trained mare has been out of the winners circle for a while and is beginning to develop a perennial placegetter tag about her. Secret Admirer finished more than two lengths off the Waller duo and ran two pounds below what she produced when second behind Danleigh the start prior in the Chelmsford Stakes. It is understandable why Secret Admirer followers are beginning to fall away with the Dubawi five-year-old now winless in 11 starts since taking out last years renewal of the Epsom Handicap. Perhaps the mare once again had excuses though, settling second last in the run on a track where only one winner on the eight race card came from worse than midfield.
The 2012 George Main Stakes sits near the previous five-year-average of the event where some of Sydney's best such as More Joyous (2010) and Racing To Win (2006) have opened their Group 1 accounts for the spring. With a performance assessed at 126, Shoot Out can continue that trend.
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