Gai Waterhouse sets Evacuation on path towards Caulfield Guineas after strong return at Rosehill

27th Aug 2016

Daily Telegraph - Ray Thomas - Saturday, 27 August 2016

GAI Waterhouse was succinct when asked to comment on Evacuation: ”He’s big, strong and very good.’’

Just how good is still the unknown despite Evacuation overpowering his rivals in the St Mary’s RSL Handicap (1400m) at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

Waterhouse and co-trainer Adrian Bott declared Evacuation will be aimed specifically at the Caulfield Guineas next month.

TAB Fixed Odds reacted immediately after the colt’s dominant win by slashing his odds for the Guineas from $26 into $9 equal favouritism with Divine Prophet and Secret Elixir.

But Waterhouse conceded Evacuation is on a “steep learning curve” after the colt scored his second win for as many starts.

“He’s a magnificent-looking colt but he is still working out what he has to do,’’ Waterhouse said. “Because he is such a big colt he has needed time to fill into his frame. As good as he was today, he will only get better.’’

Evacuation ($1.90 favourite) was kept well away from the rail by jockey Kerrin McEvoy during the run and the colt appeared to be under a little pressure on the turn but he forged clear inside the final 150m and won by nearly three lengths from Savvan ($6) with Pipeline ($13) a head away third.

“This colt has been spoken about a lot so it was good to see him return a winner,’’ McEvoy said. “But he’s still learning. He was having a good look around today. He only really knuckled down in the last furlong (a200m) so there’s room for improvement, particularly when he goes up in trip and once he really gets a grasp on the game.

“Mentally, he’s still a little bit new. I was worried a bit at the 400m but he knuckled down to his task. He was looking around, we were a fair way out from the rail, and this was his first trip away from home for the preparation.

“He was almost like the big boy in the playground but when he got serious he was very strong late. He will definitely get further, he will run a mile (a1600m) easily.’’

The Caulfield Guineas is one of the few Group 1 races Waterhouse has never won — although she came close with her champion colt Pierro in 2012 when he finished the closest of seconds to his great rival All Too Hard.

Pierro resumed racing at this meeting four years ago, winning the Run To The Rose before going straight to Melbourne where he raced away with the Bill Stutt Stakes (1600m) before his loss in that epic Caulfield Guineas.

“We might follow the Pierro path with Evacuation — it sounds good,’’ Waterhouse said.

Bott agreed with Waterhouse that the Evacuation is likely to head to Melbourne sooner rather than later for the spring carnival, adding the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m) at Rosehill in two weeks “may come around too soon”

“We’ve always thought he’d be a lovely miler in time,’’ Bott said. “We kicked him off over the 1400, which was the most suitable option for him. He should relish every bit of the mile.

“The Caulfield Guineas has always been earmarked for him just with the timing and everything — we don’t want to rush him to the Golden Rose.

“But Evacuation is a colt that we have always thought a lot of so it was great to come here and take that next step today. Naturally our horses are very fit going to the races so there was plenty of foundation there but there’s still some improvement to come.’’

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