Surf Dancer bids farewell to Shannon Stakes rivals

Image: Steve Hart

The Big Dance is the spring destination for Shannon Stakes winner Surf Dancer

Surf Dancer gave Tulloch Lodge trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott pause for thought with his comprehensive first win in the Group 2 Shannon Stakes at Rosehill.

Winner of the South Grafton Cup in July, the six-year-old qualified for the $2 million Big Dance at Randwick on Melbourne Cup day and Bott confirmed the race would be his target.

However, as the winner of Saturday’s Shannon Stakes (1500m), Surf Dancer is also exempt from voting for next weekend’s Group 1 Epsom Handicap (1600m) and although Bott is not interested in the seven-day backup, he did not. I completely ruled it out.

“I don’t think we’re driving this guy. He’s in first place today and I can’t imagine backing him, but never say never,” Bott said.

“We really could, but in fairness I think we’ll keep our eyes on the prize and that’s the Big Dance for him.

“He’s qualified for it, won the race at Grafton, so the plan was always to give him a good refresher and a couple of runs at the Big Dance.

Surf Dancer ($5) camped outside leader Ellsberg and sprinted quickly when asked for an effort by jockey Regan Bayliss, holding off Old Flame ($3.60) with Ellsberg ($3.30 fav) third.

Surf Dancer, a European import, had his first test at the Group since arriving in Australia and Bott was pleased to see it through with confidence.

“We threw him in at the deep end today but he responded very well,” he said.

“When we got to that nice spot off the lead at 53 kilos, I thought it was going to be very hard to run from there.

Bott confirmed that Converge and Cross Talk would both line up in the Epsom Handicap and said he was pleased with the progress of both horses.

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