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October 28, 2020

Ray Thomas, Racing Editor, The Daily Telegraph

This was a raceday Chris Waller did not want to miss — the inaugural running of the Golden Eagle at Rosehill Gardens.

Sydney’s second richest race, boasting prizemoney of $7.5 million, was introduced last year and Waller had the two leading chances, Kolding and Arcadia Queen.

But the Hall of Fame trainer needed to go to extraordinary lengths to be among the 20,000 on track for the big race.

“I remember last year well because I started the morning at Flemington trackwork then caught a plane back to Sydney so I could go to the races at Rosehill,” Waller said.

“Then after the last race, I got a plane back to Melbourne for the Cup.

“But I won’t be going down this year. I was hoping they might open up the borders but that won’t be happening.”

Workaholic Waller’s busy travel schedule paid off when Kolding won the Golden Eagle but the trainer can see the bigger picture and what this race will mean for the Sydney spring carnival in years to come.

“I thought the Golden Eagle raceday last year was pretty special,” Waller said.

“It was on my home track and I think that was the main reason I came back as I felt it was important to support this race and support Rosehill being a part of the extended Sydney spring carnival.

“The Golden Eagle is a unique race and it has attracted some very good horses, last year’s race certainly did.”

Star jockey Tommy Berry rode Brutal for Team Hawkes in the Golden Eagle last year, finishing only 11th after enduring a tough run from a wide barrier.

But the result aside, the raceday left a lasting impression on the jockey.

“You could sense it was a big day from the moment you walked onto the track, it just had a different feel to it,’’ Berry said.

“It was a pretty pleasing day for me being a ‘westie’. I was born and grew up at Warwick Farm.

“I’ve lived my whole life out in the western suburbs and rarely if ever went to the city and over to the eastern suburbs until I started riding in town.

“So, I felt quite proud to step on to Rosehill and see the crowd that was on track for the Golden Eagle 12 months ago.

“It’s a different sort of crowd to what you see at Randwick, too. You get a lot more families and see a lot more kids at the races at Rosehill which I love as I have a young family myself. It was pretty cool to be a part of such a good day.

“Obviously it won’t be the same this year but seeing how well prepared the ATC was for The Everest a couple of weeks ago it gives you a lot confidence going into this meeting.”

The coronavirus pandemic will restrict the Golden Eagle crowd to about 6000 race fans on Saturday but Berry said there will be no mistaking the big-race atmosphere on track.

“I notice the difference in the jockeys room,” Berry said.

“Normally everyone is having a bit of a joke and a laugh but before The Everest a couple of weeks ago everyone sat in their spot in the room, went through their form, did some stretching — it was very quiet.

“The Golden Eagle was like that last year. It is certainly not a normal day for everyone. There is a lot of prizemoney on the line for connections and also for the charities chosen for each horse. It’s a great concept.”

For the second running of $7.5 million Iron Jack Golden Eagle (1500m), Berry will team up with the Waller stable to ride Funstar.

The Golden Eagle barrier draw was conducted during a cruise on Sydney Harbour on Tuesday for connections with runners in the big race. Unfortunately for Waller and Berry, Funstar will start out of the extreme outside gate, barrier 18.

Funstar was as short as $4.20 for the Golden Eagle before the draw but TAB Fixed Odds price assessors eased her out to $4.80 after she was drawn off the track. Alligator Blood is on the second line of betting at $6.50.

But with the likelihood of a wet track for Saturday’s big race, all is not lost for Funstar as the mare has a superior record on rain-affected surfaces. In fact, her five career wins have been on tracks rated soft or heavy.

Berry is having his first race ride on Funstar but partnered the mare in a barrier trial two weeks ago and was in the saddle when she had a fast workout at Rosehill trackwork on Monday morning.

“Funstar is really well, she handles all (track) conditions and had a good gallop earlier this week, she is ready for the race,” Waller said.

“She has similar credentials to Kolding last year although he won the Epsom before the Golden Eagle.

“The Cox Plate was an option but she has already won a Group 1 race and she is running for great prizemoney on her home track on Saturday.

“There is nothing to say she can’t get to a Cox Plate next year if she is good enough.”

Waller also has another mare, Subpoenaed ($26) and four-year-old entire Reloaded ($51) in the Golden Eagle.

Subpoenaed won the Golden Pendant over 1400m at Rosehill two starts back then ran sixth in Flit’s Silver Eagle.

Reloaded, a minor placegetter behind Castelvecchio in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) earlier this year, ran a close third in the Tramway Handicap (1400m) when resuming this spring but hasn’t raced since his fifth in the Bill Ritchie Handicap (1400m) six weeks ago.

“Subpoenoaed didn’t have much luck last start but she loves Rosehill, she’s a fit horse and will keep them honest as her soft track form is good,” Waller said.
“Reloaded is there as well and he is capable of running a very good race.”

When interviewing Waller and Berry, it is obvious they covet the Golden Eagle.

Sure, the prizemoney is fantastic but it is more than that. As proud “westies” this race means something to them.

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