Queen on cup winner?s mind
By STEVE SPINKS
THE Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2500m) broke John Everson's heart last year.
The Ballina trainer had nominated his Lismore and Ballina Cups winner, Arena Valadora, to run in the $250,000 race on the last day of the Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington.
However, fate intervened.
The plane that was to transport the six-year-old horse to Melbourne broke down so Arena Valadora, Everson and strapper Sue Logan (Everson's daughter), were left stranded in Ballina.
So it's a touch ironic that at the top of Everson's wish list this autumn is to race his galloper in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) again ... this time in Sydney in April.
Another Queen Elizabeth Stakes is held on Sydney Cup day at Randwick.
It's a Group One weight-for-age race with an $800,000 purse.
"It's a bit ironic isn't it," Everson admitted.
"But it would be a fairytale to get there and to actually do something in it."
But it's a long road until Arena Valadora lines up at Randwick.
Everson has targeted three races for the son of Flying Spur before April 2.
The first was the $120,000 Newcastle Newmarket Handicap (1400m) last Wednesday.
After leading into the straight with Cool Front, Arena Valadora faded to finish last.
Everson admitted the race was a bit short for a galloper more suited to the longer distances.
"We had to use him up early," he said.
"We wanted him to lead and he knocked up a bit towards the end and dropped out of it.
"It was a good training effort and it was what I expected."
The Ballina trainer is now based at Rosehill where Arena Valadora will start in a listed race, the Neville Sellwood Stakes (2000m) on Golden Slipper Day (March 19).
"He worked well this morning and went to the line strong," Everson said yesterday.
Following the Sellwood Stakes is another listed race, the $100,000 Japan Racing Association Plate (2000m) on Doncaster Day (March 28).
"We've gone for a few easier races," Everson said.
"But they're all leading up to Randwick.
"We'll be staying down there the whole time and Sue will fly down from Ballina and strap the horse for the races before coming back to Ballina to look after the stable up here."
Everson only took over training Arena Valadora late last year from the Flemington-based David Hall.
A last place at Eagle Farm preceded consecutive victories at the Ballina and Lismore Cups.
After the high of Lismore, Everson was brought back to earth after Arena Valadora had an indifferent run in the Port Macquarie Cup.
But once again Arena Valadora bounced back to win at Doomben before the Queen Elizabeth Stakes disaster.
Which begs the question, how did Everson get Arena Valadora to Newcastle and Sydney?
"We definitely didn't fly," he chuckled.