Rematch ... Kerrin McEvoy brings Guineas Prelude winner Epaulette back to scale. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui
MEMORIES of the Todman Stakes and Epaulette's narrow defeat by Pierro are fuelling Kerrin McEvoy's ambition of back-to-back Caulfield Guineas successes on Saturday.
Epaulette, which is a Commands half-brother to Helmet, last year's Guineas winner, headed Pierro in last year's Todman before Gai Waterhouse's still-unbeaten star fought back to win by a short half-head.
''I felt like I was home. We got there [to the front] and [he] had a look around,'' McEvoy said after the Todman as Nash Rawiller claimed he had taught Pierro how to fight.
It was the closest any horse has got to Pierro and in two meetings since, Epaulette finished last in the Golden Slipper, which is best forgotten, and 2½-lengths third in the Run To The Rose dominated by Pierro.
''He [Pierro] is the benchmark for the three-year-olds there is no doubt about that,'' McEvoy said. ''The Todman is a long time ago but it is the closest anything has got to him. My horse has definitely got better since but so has Pierro. He definitely has the runs on the board and is a lot stronger and has been very impressive in everything he has done.''
The $1 million Guineas over 1600 metres will be the first time Pierro steps up to group 1 level as a three-year-old but his record of eight wins without defeat, including the Golden Slipper, Sires' Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes, entitled him to the short quote of $1.35 with bookmakers. His Bill Stutt Stakes romp over the mile at Moonee Valley 10 days ago helped to trim that quote further.
Epaulette is the only real threat and $7 is freely available about his chances, even after his Golden Rose victory and a workmanlike performance in the Guineas Prelude at Caulfield eight days ago.
''He has been good at his past two [runs] but this is the ultimate test,'' McEvoy said. ''This is the race we have targeted with him and we are taking on a very, very good three-year-old in Pierro. All I can say is I'm very happy with my horse.''
It will be Epaulette's first run at 1600m but he looks like he will be suited by the trip. McEvoy indicated the barrier draw could play a big role in how the Guineas is run, but expects Pierro will be in front of Epaulette during the race.
Epaulette relaxed at the tail in the Golden Rose and stormed home to win at Rosehill, but showed versatility to be much closer in the Prelude but lacked the killer instinct when it looked as if he was going to blow his rivals away.
''It would be as good to be as close as possible to Pierro but we won't be making any decisions about that until after the barrier draw,'' McEvoy said. ''He is going to have something to chase this time I'm sure of that.''
Pierro will be the only runner from the Waterhouse stable as Kabayan and Proisir will be saved for targets later in the spring.
McEvoy has picked up the ride on Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained Shahwardi in Saturday's Herbert Power Handicap, which offers direct entry into the Caulfield Cup.
The Melbourne Cup-winning jockey's European experience helped in getting the ride on the French stayer, which has 51.5 kilograms in the the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups, and ran a close-up third in the Prix Kergorlay at Deauville at his most recent outing on August 19. It is the race Americain and Dunaden came through on their way to Melbourne Cup victory in the past two years. Also, Shahwardi is a two-time winner over the Caulfield Cup distance of 2400 metres, albeit in 2009.
McEvoy will get acquainted with the seven-year-old when he works him at Werribee this morning in preparation for Saturday. ''I have never ridden for Alain before, so it was a honour when he rang to ride Shahwardi,'' he said. ''He needs to win a race like Saturday's if he is going to get into the cups and it will be interesting to see how he measures up.''