SHOALS, small in stature but a giant-killer by nature, could produce another upset result in the mini-Everest showdown, the Group 2 $500,000 Premiere Stakes (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
There are three Group 1 races at the Epsom Handicap meeting but the Premiere is shaping as a scene-stealer with six of the eight runners having their final start before the $13 million The TAB Everest (1200m) on October 13.
Trapeze Artist and Redzel, the early Everest favourites, share the top of Ladbrokes' Premiere betting at $2.90 ahead of Everest rivals In Her Time ($6.50), Invincible Star ($7.50) and Santa Ana Lane ($8).
Shoals, trained by Anthony Freedman and a stablemate of Santa Ana Lane, is next in betting at $11 and goes to the Premiere Stakes after a first-up third behind Everest hopeful Nature Strip in the Moir Stakes earlier this month.
"The distance of the Premiere Stakes is more suitable for Shoals than the Moir Stakes,'' co-owner John Messara said on Wednesday.
"She was run off her feet a bit over the 1000m last start and they broke the Moonee Valley track record that day.
"But Shoals is improving with every run and we can't wait for The Everest.''
Messara described the Premiere Stakes field as "almost as juicy as The Everest".
"There's the two Everest favourites clashing on Saturday and all these other up-and-comers - the Premiere Stakes is now a major, major race," he said.
"This is what The Everest is doing, it is making races like the Premiere Stakes so good. The Everest is lifting the whole of Sydney's spring carnival - it has having such a positive effect on the sport.''
Jockey Tim Clark wears Shoals's usual silks of white and red stripes in the Premiere Stakes but he will don a new set of riding silks for The Everest to incorporate slot-holder The Star's logo.
Michael Hodgson, the Star Entertainment Group's general manager of business development and partnerships, said The Everest had already established itself as a "world-class entertainment event".
"The synergy with what we're doing at The Star is what makes this race (Everest) so appealing to us,'' Hodgson said.
"We're also about delivering great experiences for locals and visitors to Sydney, through award-winning hotels and restaurants, event centres and theatres. Our ambitions and those of The Everest are very much aligned.
"To be involved with the race again this year and partnering with John Messara at Arrowfield is a huge thrill. In Arrowfield, and trainer Anthony Freedman, we have unmatched collective wisdom.
"It's a combination we think gives Shoals a real chance of taking out the big prize on October 13 in the silks we've had designed especially for the day.''