Kennedy signs up Darby's Overpass for The Everest

Group 2 winner Overpass (Vancouver) has become the latest edition to be added to The Everest puzzle after it was announced on Wednesday the 4-year-old had been snapped up by James Kennedy for this year’s $15 million race.


The Bjorn Baker-trained and Darby Racing-owned son of Vancouver must have had slotholders circling following his most recent effort when he finished second behind current The Everest favourite Nature Strip (Nicconi) in G2 The Shorts H. at Randwick, and in the process got the better of many of the other contenders, with Lost And Running (NZ) (Per Incanto {USA}), Eduardo (Host {Chi}), Mazu(Maurice {Jpn}) and Masked Crusader (Toronado {Ire}) all coming home behind him.


However, Scott Darby revealed to TDN AusNZ the deal with slotholder James Kennedy had already been sealed before Overpass’ run in G2 The Shorts H. and the owners were relieved to see the horse repay their faith when he ran the current The Everest titleholder Nature Strip within 1.5l in the Group 2.


“We were a little nervous going into the first race because we had actually done the deal for the slot before The Shorts, but we were confident he was going to run really well, so to see him do that has justified our faith in him. I still don’t think we have seen the best of him to be honest,” Darby said.


A $75,000 for Darby Racing and William Johnson Bloodstock at Round 2 of the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale in 2020, Overpass landed three of his six starts as a juvenile and also finished a good fourth in the G2 BRC Sires’ Produce S. Kept in training as a 3-year-old, he finished fourth in the G2 Roman Consul S., before running a sound sixth in the G1 Coolmore Stud S.


Overpass’ headline moment came when he claimed the scalp of Group 1 winners Forbidden Love (All Too Hard) and Anamoe (Street Boss {USA}) in the G2 Expressway S. last season, before following up that win with a second-placed finish in the G3 Southern Cross S. and then duly delivered another fine performance to win the Inglis Sprint at Flemington on March 5.


This is the second time Darby Racing has had a runner in Randwick feature, with their 2017 G1 Golden Slipper S. winner She Will Reign (Manhattan Rain) having secured a slot in the inaugural edition of the race in 2017 and Scott Darby told TDN AusNZ he was looking forward to having a second runner tackle the lucrative sprint on October 15.


“It’s terribly exciting. We were involved in the first edition of the race with She Will Reign and I think the race has grown so much since then. It is the race everyone wants to be involved in, so to have a horse worthy enough and to link up with James Kennedy, Darby Racing and the owners are super excited,” he said.


Overpass has continued to consistently run well against stiff competition in the sprinting ranks and Darby said he had always expected the horse to improve with age.


“It is certainly no surprise to us or Bjorn to see him keep improving. If you saw him as a 2-year-old he got to Group 2 level and ran fourth in that and he was a real baby,” Darby said. “He took big steps last preparation and won a Group 2 first-up and he was very competitive in Group 1s, even though he still had plenty of development and maturity to come. First thing Bjorn said to me this preparation was, ‘This colt has returned to work as a man and he has really furnished and I’m really excited about him.’”


Being only four and given the longevity of sprinters in Australia, Darby said he was looking forward to the future with Overpass.


“We keep waiting for the older boys to retire, but they seem to be getting better and better. They can’t go on forever and this bloke is sound as a bell and we think he will get better and better, going forward,” he said.


“It is certainly going to be tough to beat Nature Strip this year, but we will certainly be giving it our all.”


Darby also confirmed Overpass will have his final Everest lead-up in Saturday's G2 Premiere S. at Randwick where his rivals will once again include fellow Everest slotholders Lost And Running, Masked Crusader and Mazu.


“We definitely need to run in the Premiere because otherwise four weeks between the run will be too much. He is a bull, albeit a well-behaved bull, but it will have him peaking on Everest Day,” he said.


“It will be a good precursor to the race without Eduardo and Nature Strip there and it will be good to see where the rest of the horses sit in the pecking order for the race.


“There is also the new series with the points system worth $6 million, so there are points up for grabs in this race, The Everest and the race after and I think he is second in the table at the moment, so it would be great to win this race and give us some confidence going forward.”


Meanwhile, Baker said he was excited to be involved in a spectacle like The Everest, believing it has cemented itself among one of the greatest contests the spring has to offer.


“It's so important now. It's the new generation and the atmosphere on the day is unbelievable and it's amazing to be involved in a race like that. I still think he is on the rise and he's improved every preparation. It's going to be a magnificent day and it will be amazing to be involved.”


“He had to do a little bit of work from the start but I thought he was strong on the line, 1200 (metres) will suit better and on top of the ground will be better for him,” Baker said.


“We're going forward with a little bit of confidence.”


On Tuesday, Coolmore picked G1 Golden Rose S. winner Jacquinot (Rubick) and Aquis elected Joyful Fortune (Nicconi) to fill their slots in the lucrative sprint.


They join Snapdancer (Choisir) for Inglis, Lost And Running for TAB, Eduardo for Yulong Investments, Mazu for The Star and Arrowfield, Nature Strip for Chris Waller Racing and Masked Crusader for Max Whitby and Neil Werrett.


It leaves only Godolphin, James Harron Bloodstock and Bon Ho as the slotholders yet to announce their contenders for the $15 million contest.

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